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Reuters Has Some Ebola Crisis Advice for Burson-Marsteller

Texas Health

Pic via Mike Stone/Getty Images

Late yesterday, a writer at Reuters responded to the news that Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital had hired Burson-Marsteller with some very healthy skepticism…directed not at the firm but at its client.

Steven Brill, founder of both Court TV and American Lawyer magazine, notes that hospitals are generally “terrible at dealing with the media,” and he has some not-quite-friendly suggestions.

His basic points:

  • While most of the public has good impressions of hospitals, most don’t realize that this one and its executives make a lot of money, that very little of its revenue (1.3 percent) comes from charity, and that it is “among the most successful businesses in northern Texas”
  • No one seems to know whether a quality-control committee reviews the number of patients who contract infections — Ebola or otherwise
  • The hospital’s position on nonpayment (which obviously applied to the late, uninsured Ebola patient Thomas Harris Duncan, who was sent home after his first trip to the emergency room) has not been made clear

Brill’s suggestion is that “we’re sorry; mistakes were made” statements can only do so much and that Texas Health will have to go far beyond playing basic defense. He even encourages reporters to seek out hospital employees who will address these issues if the organization’s designated spokespeople do not.

We doubt the org will be so open, but for the record we hope journalists on the scene take his advice. Millions of people will be watching.

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What Would Bill Do? Media Coach Bill McGowan Takes on the Week’s News

Rick Scott

Pic via  Joe Raedle/Getty Images North America

It’s time for the latest edition of our ongoing collaboration with Bill McGowan, Clarity Media Group founder and advisor to executives at Facebook, Airbnb, CNBC and more.

1. First, Bill takes on Governor Rick Scott and his problem with fans:

Scott Blows It with Fan-Gate: If Florida Governor Rick Scott wanted to make his Democratic opponent Charlie Christ hot under the collar during this week’s televised debate, he picked the wrong way to do it.

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Obama Names #EbolaCzar; Everyone Freaks Out

RonaldKlainOnce again, President Obama seems ready to feed the meme: this morning, someone within the White House chose to “leak” the news that Ron Klain, who served as Chief of Staff to Vice Presidents Gore and Biden, will be tasked with helping the government inform the public about the ongoing Ebola scare.

And yes, every single publication included the word “czar” in its headline.

As TIME told us way back in 2009, this is something of a media relations issue: titles for such positions tend to be unwieldy, so the “czar” meme is simply too easy to resist. It all started back in the early 20th Century:

“Woodrow Wilson appointed financier Bernard Baruch to head the War Industries Board — a position dubbed industry czar (this just one year after the final Russian czar, Nicholas II, was overthrown in the Russian Revolution).”

Politico compiled a list of such officials in the Obama administration before the TIME story ran.

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The Ticker: World Leaders Tweet; Ketchum Knows EU Sports; Whisper Outreach Fails; And More

Spin the Agencies of Record

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  • Cohn & Wolfe China signed a three-year contract to represent Tourism Fiji; C&W is the first China-area firm appointed by the group. The purpose of the contract: to convince more of China’s growing leisure class to choose Fiji as its next tourism destination. Sadly, while the islands boast more than their share of natural beauty and local attractions, only Tom Hanks can hear the volleyballs.

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Burson-Marsteller Will Help Handle the Texas Ebola Crisis

burson-marstellar-logoWe would have left this bit of news for today’s “Spin the AOR” post, but it’s a big one: a New York Times article shared by our friends at Everything PR revealed that Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital has hired Burson-Marsteller to improve its admittedly poor response to the Ebola crisis.

Note the line near the bottom of the article: “On Friday, the hospital hired Burson-Marsteller, the global public relations firm, to help tell its side.”

While the health org has repeatedly admitted that mistakes were made on both the operational and messaging fronts, news that a second worker has been diagnosed with the condition ensures that the story will only continue to grow.

For reference, the org’s handle has been tweeting links to related resources. The account also released a statement from Nina Pham, the first employee to be diagnosed with Ebola, two days ago:

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HBO, CBS Score #PRWin at Netflix’s Expense

You may have heard that HBO made lots of headlines yesterday by announcing that its first standalone streaming service would launch in 2015. This was great news for people like us, who only use their parents’ HBO GO password when Mom and Dad are in town…super serious, you guys! Fingers not crossed!!

It was also a brilliant act of PR — and CBS followed it up today by doing HBO one better:

Going to have to agree with Brian Stelter – this release was definitely worth more than five bucks. So why was this such a big PR win for the two companies?

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The Ticker: Pitching Bloggers; ‘Sorry Not Sorry’; ROI Update; And More

Pink Slip Mania: This Is (Now) CNN

CNN fail

Unfortunately for Turner Broadcasting Systems, ratings haven’t been kind to the network that invented — for better or worse — 24/7 news.

In fact, they have sucked a little. This consistent downward spiral has forced the muckety-mucks at Turner (parent company of CNN, HLN, TNT, TBS, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, and others) to consider what many in media believe to be the inevitable.

Reports show up to 300 have been let go at CNN and HLN alone, and this afternoon our sister site TVNewser learned that the recently relaunched Crossfire had been put out of its misery (again).

Factoids on the dearly departed after the jump. Read more

Nanci Ryder Shares ALS Diagnosis, Steps Down at BWR

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Today, famed celebrity PR pro Nanci Ryder – co-founder of BWR and frequent “most powerful publicists in Hollywood” honoree — made an important announcement via The Hollywood Reporter: she has ALS and she will be stepping down from her role at the firm to devote herself fully to raising awareness of the condition.

This news is particularly relevant after the ALS and the PR industry itself won widespread acclaim for the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge this summer.

The piece is well worth a read, but here are some of its more inspiring quotes from Ryder herself:

“They haven’t told me that I’m terminal, but the disease is…So you fight. That’s it.”

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