PRSA Attacking Media Foe for Phone Hacking

by PR Coach

PRSA says O’Dwyer hacked its phones

This just in. PRSA breaks tabloid-like allegations of phone hacking against Jack O’Dwyer, publisher of the well-known PR trade publication O’Dwyer’s.

O’Dwyer and PRSA have feuded like the Hatfields and the McCoys since 1994 according to a story in Ad Age.

PRSA VP Arthur Yann published a statement on the association’s website responding to ongoing accusations by O’Dwyer that PRSA has auditing issues and its audit chair is not qualified.

Jack O’Dwyer’s July 13, 2011 article claims “Financial Oversight Lacking at PRSA” and closes with:

“As we all know, the nation is on its economic knees because of poor, late and non-existent financial reporting. The Society should be setting an example of the finest in financial reporting. It is not doing that.”

O’Dwyer’s later published PRSA’s full website statement in the comments section of its article.

In alleging phone hacking, Yann’s July 19, 2011 statement says:

“Mr. O’Dwyer, while a free press is essential to our country, principles and profession, not everything—or everyone—wrapped in the mantle of “journalism” is right or ethical, as the News of the World scandal demonstrates. But then again, it would appear that your organization condones such [hacking] practices, given that records from our teleconferencing vendor show that telephone numbers registered to the J.R. O’Dwyer Company connected to PRSA teleconference calls without PRSA’s permission five times between May 22, 2007, and May 12, 2009.”

Yann and PRSA refute any claims of inappropriate financial and auditing standards.

There you have it. The PR profession’s very own US phone hacking scandal brought to light in a classic crisis management strategy. Like professional cyclists, it’s called “slipstreaming” or using news hooks similar to big breaking news stories to gain media attention for your own story.

It’s a disingenuous strategy often used by political operators, PR people and publicists but it’s not always effective if your story doesn’t measure up to scrutiny.

Here’s an even better strategy. PRSA should publish its accusations in its Public Relations Strategist magazine. Just imagine the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post styled headline possibilities? They’re too delicious not to contemplate:

Jack’s Hacks Attack Flacks

Hack Attacks Give Flacks Gas

Gas Bags Slag Foe’s Hacking Jag

PRSA Whacking
Because of Flacks’ Phone Hacking


Front cover headlines like these would generate way more media coverage and attention.

I don’t know what PRSA’s strategy is here. We all know you can never keep your tuxedo spotless by wrestling in the mud with the media hogs. Or, as my former media training partner Alyn Edwards used to say “Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.”

As an aside, I’m struggling to find the comparable digital or new media analogy. Maybe “If you can’t say something nice, keep your digits in your Dockers?” How about “Don’t fight with Twits or go face to face with FalseBook enemies?” Suggestions welcome in Comments below.

As a crisis management strategist, it all seems very unseemly and Bad PR for both sides doesn’t it?

The PR Coach writes regularly about public relations insight, strategy, social media and PR tips and tactics. If you like what you see, why not sign up for the PR Coach blog or get our RSS feed delivered to your favorite reader?

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Photo Credit:  Thomas Hawk via Flickr

Author: Jeff Domansky is Editor, The PR Coach

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