Friday, October 5, 2007

Public Relations, Consumer Confidence, and Liars

By Alan Caruba

I was interviewed recently by a reporter for National Public Radio’s “Marketplace”, providing a sound bite about the coverage of Countrywide Financial’s problems as its stock price heads south, causing the layoff of a huge number of employees in the wake of the subprime mortgage loan debacle.

I have long been accustomed to being the “go to” guy when the press has questions about public relations and the news was about a small army of Burson-Marsteller PR folks brought in to fix the ailing home lender’s image.

When trust returns to the home mortgage industry in general, Countrywide—if it is still around—will rebuild. Meanwhile, it has to very publicly reinforce the need for ethical practices and not use “competition” as an excuse for a lack of caution.

Meanwhile, it's a good idea to keep in mind that the economy is doing just fine. Unemployment is still at record low rates. As the holidays approach, consumers will open their wallets. Some of them will look at the new housing prices and decide to buy one. The economy is amazingly resiliant.

It has been interesting to see the growth of “crisis control” in tandem with “reputation management” as an important function of public relations, but I tend to favor fighting one’s enemies long and hard before any crisis is allowed to happen. This is particularly true when it comes to issues of public policy and public opinion.

Environmental groups have, for years, used lies of every kind to advance their agenda. The result has often caused the needless loss of life as in the case of the ban on DDT. The vast "global warming" hoax threatens to waste trillions of dollars limiting "greenhouse gas emissions" by imposing "carbon taxes" when humans have no role whatever regarding the earth's climate.

Any enterprise whose success is predicated on issues involving energy, chemicals or pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and—most importantly—consumer confidence has got to be prepared to join the war against those who spread lies about the good things they do.

If not, the liars win. It’s just that simple.

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