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Ketchum

Journalist Reveals Ketchum’s Suggestions for Discrediting Him

Ecuador2In case you missed it, Bloomberg Businessweek published an intriguing story yesterday by veteran journalist Paul M. Barrett that ran with the headline “What It’s Like to Be Attacked by Putin’s Flack.

The “flack” in question is Ketchum — more specifically D.C.-based partner Kathy Jeavons, who “heads both the Ecuador and Russia accounts” for the firm.

For the record, Jeavons did not personally attack or even contact Barrett. But a source did forward him a talking points document that the firm wrote for Nathalie Cely, Ecuador’s ambassador to the United States. The doc included both well-stated observations about Ecuador’s history with Chevron and suggestions for casting doubt on the credibility of Law of the Jungle, Barrett’s upcoming book on the lawsuit that accuses the company of abusing its relationship with the people of Ecuador.

One such suggestion: use friendly media outlets to raise doubts about whether Barrett ever actually visited the country or met the individuals he interviewed for the book.

We spoke to Mr. Barrett today for more information.

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The New York Times Probes Ketchum’s Relationship with Putin

Oh, You!!

New York Times media reporter Ravi Somaiya wrote what might have seemed like the most important PR story to break over the long weekend: a look into Ketchum‘s relationship with its most (in)famous client, Russian president Vladimir Putin.

What did the article itself reveal, though?

Not a whole lot.

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Ketchum Partners with Zito to Launch Financial Communications Service

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New Jersey’s Zito Partners has partnered with Ketchum to create a “strategic alliance” offering specifically targeted at financial institutions and other organizations looking for help on related communications fronts.

Ketchum Zito Financial will combine Zito’s collective expertise with that of the Ketchum financial communications practice to offer very specific services related to:

  • Board issues (composition, investigations, share prices)
  • Transactions (mergers, IPOs, etc.)
  • Earnings Reports (and related messaging strategies)
  • Research (studies/surveys relevant to investors)
  • Media Relations

Founder Bob Zito brings a history to the role: before starting the firm, he served as EVP of the New York Stock Exchange and a member of its management committee. Previous positions include VP of corporate communications at Sony and CCO at Bristol-Meyers Squibb.

He also happens to be a former Ketchum client–a fact that might, in part, explain the ease with which this partnership developed.

Ketchum DC Office Leader Takes Role at Healthcare Org

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Ragone with (L to R) PIX11 Morning News’ Jill Nicolini, Fox News’ Courtney Friel and CNN’s Ali Velshi in 2011

Nick Ragone, who has served as the director of Ketchum‘s DC office since 2011, announced today that he’s leaving the firm for a role at Ascension Health, a St. Louis-based nonprofit healthcare organization associated with the Catholic Church.

Ragone described his new role as “overseeing the entire communications team structure–internal and external–for Ascension and all of its properties”, which include a family of hospitals and related facilities across the country.

While this PR Week post covers most of the details, Ragone did have a unique insight for us:

“I just want to reassure everyone: I’m an outspoken Mets fan and I will remain so–even in St. Louis.”

Ketchum Has an App for Your Crisis

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What can an app do for you? More importantly, what can’t it do for you?

You may recall that the PRSA released an ethics app last year to some mild controversy–and yesterday The Wall Street Journal‘s new “CMO Today” blog brought us news that Ketchum is about to release an app to help you conquer crisis management.

You read that right. First, we have to share this bit from WSJ’s Steven Perlberg:

“…the firm hopes [the app] will give sweaty-palmed clients the ability to conquer any would-be PR nightmare from the comfort of their own phone.”

Aren’t you curious now?

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Russia Specialist Claims Putin’s PR Spend Is a Waste of Money

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Yes, we’re talking about you.

In case you missed it, yesterday Eli Lake of The Daily Beast enlisted a former Russian Federation employee and author who specialized in media relations to explain why all the money the Kremlin spent on reputation advice was a waste.

While Lake vaguely insinuates unflattering things about Ketchum, his source Angus Roxburgh’s main conclusion is that Vladimir Putin does whatever the hell Vladimir Putin wants to do, no matter what his foreign and domestic advisors tell him.

Roxburgh (who was never employed by Ketchum) is something of a Putin expert.

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Putin/Ketchum New York Times Op-Ed Inspires PR Ethics Debate

The fact that Ketchum pitched Vladimir Putin’s controversial New York Times op-ed on Syria isn’t breaking news: We’ve already established, via ProPublica, that Ketchum places pro-Putin op-eds written by “independent businessmen” in publications like The Huffington Post and CNBC. Yet unlike those posts, this one was quite clear in its intentions, and the Times apparently handled it much like any other pitch. Op-ed page editor Andrew Rosenthal writes:

“I thought it was well-written, well-argued. I don’t agree with many of the points in it, but that is irrelevant.”

Critics pounced immediately, writing that the Times was “aiding and abetting a long-term foe of the United States” by running the op-ed. This is obviously not true, as Times public editor Margaret Sullivan notes that publication is “not an endorsement of [Putin] or his ideas” and that he didn’t get paid. Still, one reader who may or may not be this guy asks why the NYT doesn’t “…take issue with the fact that it was so obviously penned by Putin’s flacks.”

Was it? Putin’s spokesman now claims that the man himself wrote “the basic content” and that his “assistants” fleshed it out—but what about Ketchum?

General consensus calls the successful pitch “a PR coup” for Putin, but it’s led some in the industry to raise ethical issues:

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Ketchum Placed Vladimir Putin’s Controversial New York Times Op-Ed

Vladimir Putin recently took a break from using 90′s R&B to encourage Russians to reproduce in order to pen an op-ed for The New York Times.

In the article, he urges the American people to resist President Obama‘s calls for military action in Syria, writing that a missile strike “will result in more innocent victims and escalation” and even going so far as to claim that the opposition, not “President” Bashar al-Assad, was responsible for recent poison gas attacks that killed more than 1,000 men, women and children. Putin argues that the opposition, who he labels terrorists, killed their own people in order to “provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons.”

It’s a heavy charge, and Putin doesn’t shy away from characterizing the United States as an international bully that uses “brute force” to get its way; senators in both parties raced to issue statements about how terrible the article was, and this morning Leon Panetta told Today that it’s all part of Putin’s effort to “weaken” the US.

In the midst of this discussion, BuzzFeed reported—and Times public editor Margaret Sullivan tacitly confirmed—that Ketchum PR pitched the article.

Whatever your thoughts on the op-ed itself or the ethical debates regarding its placement, this is big news. How should the world respond? How should the PR industry respond?

Dads to Brands: We’re Not All Idiots, You Know

Guys with Kids Here’s a universal truth: many marketing and PR campaigns play on gender stereotypes. Two of the more popular tropes are “girls only like girly things” and “all dads are bumbling idiots.”

Things are changing, though–slowly but surely. Fathers, like mothers, are a little tired of being portrayed via dumb cliches, and they’re responding quite well to campaigns that feel targeted to them rather than their “nagging wives.”

At a recent “daddy blogger” conference in Houston, brands asked dads: “What do you guys want?” Their answer: we want to be treated as equals and competent parents, not mocked as clueless oafs who barely know how to use a microwave.

Dove Men+Care is one of the most prominent brands spearheading this trend by recruiting such “guy’s guy” dads as Shaquille O’Neal and a conveniently handsome “nonactor”/firefighter to let dads aged 35 to 44 know that it’s OK to use a facial scrub and a moisturizer.

As Jason Lin, VP and digital strategist at Ketchum PR, told The New York Times: ““The payoff is huge if you get dads right.” Can we think of brands beyond Dove that are getting dads right?

Ketchum’s Rob Flaherty: ‘Our Business is All About Change’

The press release announcing the leadership changes at Ketchum described the appointments as part of a transition for the company. But if you ask the firm’s top two execs, change is always and ongoing.

“Our business is all about change, so if you’re not changing you’re not moving a service firm of any kind forward,” the soon-to-be CEO Rob Flaherty told us on the phone today. “I think a good service firm develops a percentage of their services as new services every year.”

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