You can imagine I'm all choked up that Ketchum's found itself in a stew of bad PR this week. Well, it may be No Child Left Behind, but apparently Armstrong Williams -- a nationally syndicated radio, print and television personality -- is one grown-up left behind, at least by the Chicago Tribune (I think that's the paper he mentioned on Bill Whoreily's show), which has 86-ed his column.
I think Williams can afford to take some time off with his quarter million dollars from the Education Department.
"Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House Education Committee, as saying the contract was "a very questionable use of taxpayers' money" and is "probably illegal."
I also thought it was clever the way Williams kept referring to Ketchum as Ketchum Communications (That isn't and wasn't Ketchum's name. Used to be Ketchum Public Relations, but smartly the dirty word in its name went away a few years ago with the new logo design and branding...) as if using "communications" in the name might somehow leave the door open for pleading a simple "mis-communication" is in order here...
The Education Department defended its decision as a "permissible use of taxpayer funds under legal government contracting procedures." The point was to help parents, particularly in poor and minority communities, understand the benefits of the law, the department said.
Of course. The demographics of poor minorities listening to conservative talk radio are, well, way up there. Uh-huh.
The department's contract with Williams, through the public relations firm Ketchum, dates to 2003 and 2004. It is billed as a "minority outreach campaign" with the goal of "educating the African-American community" about the education law.
Looks like some new ways for measuring value are in order here.
Disclosure: I worked for Ketchum once upon a time. I have never been secret about my likes and dislikes. I have a few fond memories. I also think the business model of BigPR is broken for good.