The Scotty: Spotlighting ineptness in media relations

It’s tough being a good spokesperson. You have to understand the story. You want to represent your organization well — without spinning. You want to be honest, accurate and open while recognizing that there are going to be times when you can’t disclose everything that a reporter may want or ask for.

Scott McClellan serves as an example of what you don’t want to be. Saying a lot without really saying anything. Misleading reporters and the public. Having misgivings about the accuracy of information but presenting it as fact anyway. So let’s give McClellan the first Scotty — an award that recognizes the reasons why reporters and others hold many (most?) public relations spokespersons in such low regard.

And since the story about McClellan and his book is pretty much history now, let’s see if we can’t find some other examples to help keep the spotlight on what should be an honest, accurate and open exchange of information that serves the organization and public. But often isn’t.

For instance, the Akron Beacon Journal printed an Associated Press story last Saturday about Mexican labor unions agreeing to lower wages in order to compete with China — “Auto paycuts head south.” The issue is that wages could be as low as $1.50 an hour. The story indicates that these lower wages — and wage concessions — were the key for Ford to add as many as 4,500 jobs to build cars at a plant in Cuautitlan, near Mexico City. Something tells me that this isn’t something that Ford is thrilled to disclose in the United States because of a workforce here that is both shrinking and worried about wages. Well, here’s from the article:

Ford spokeswoman Alejandra Acevedo said she did not know what starting wages for new hires at Cuautitlan would be, but she acknowledged that to win the jobs, the plant had to compete against other Ford facilities worldwide.

Ah, c’mon. Alejandra, I have a suggestion for you. Ask someone. I’ll bet Ford CEO Alan Mulally knows. He was in Mexico City last week. If he doesn’t know then there is an even bigger problem than moving jobs south where workers earn $1.50 an hour. Maybe. And to give you the benefit of the doubt, if there is a reason why you can’t disclose this information, then say it. “I don’t know.” Hmm.

For not asking — or not telling — here’s your Scotty. Display it proudly.

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