Yesterday, Stephanie Harnett, a young staffer at Mercury Public Affairs in L.A. who was working on behalf of Wal-Mart, was fired after she was caught posing as a reporter in order to spy on a press conference of a pro-labor group. Did one young staffer go rogue? Or is this standard operating procedure?
Wal-Mart is trying to open a new store in LA's Chinatown area. Local labor groups, among others, are challenging the store's permitting. It's a fight with big stakes for Wal-Mart, as it goes right to the heart of the company's strategy of expanding in large cities. And now, one labor group says that an employee of a PR firm working for Wal-Mart actually posed as a reporter in order to infiltrate one of their meetings.
The public relations industry is like a bird on a high wire act and all the world's a stage of mixed metaphors. Though one might assume that a job writing and distributing press releases would require both sharp writing skills and a savvy sense of one's audience, one would be mistaken. And gay? This is PR Dummies. Gay, every week.
A CNN investigation has found that a charity called the Disabled Veterans National Foundation suffered from gross mismanagement problems including, among other things, the fact that instead of giving money to veterans, it spent all of its money with a direct marketing firm called Quadriga, "which owns two direct-mail fundraising companies hired by the DVNF to help garner donations."
We take a backseat to no one when it comes to spewing forth venom at the public relations industry. But we feel compelled to stand up and make this point: PR people doing research on what reporters have written and making a file on that topic is not a scandal. It is the same thing that reporters do, okay?