Let me just put this out there – it is never okay to stage a fake press conference and play it off as real. Never. Let me take that further. If it’s fake, then make sure at least one member of the Muppets are involved. If it’s real, don’t let John Philbin run it.
The embattled PR chief of the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) last week staged a press conference related to the wild fires in California. FEMA’s deputy administrator, retired Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson Jr. spoke to a room of FEMA staffers he didn’t recognize who asked him softball questions like, “’Are you happy with FEMA’s response so far?’” Yes, the media was invited. They were given one hour’s notice, were able to participate by phone only and had no chance to ask questions.
Philbin – the ringmaster of the sham press conference – lost the job he was being promoted to: Director of Public Affairs for Mike McConnell, the nation’s top intelligence official.
But is that really enough? Losing a government PR job? No! He should be tarred and feathered. Or at least have to apologize to the American people for not only defrauding them but for scarring all other government PR professionals. He should lose a license or be forced to never hold a PR job again. He should have to wear a red “SPIN” on his sleeve so no one ever trusts him again.
Why am I getting so worked up about this? One little word: trust. Yes, even in PR trust matters. Isn’t that what all our clients are after? Trust from the people who matter to them. John Philbin should’ve thought about that before he betrayed the trust of the American people and those suffering in California. What he did is absolutely despicable and all of us in the PR community should stand up and with one voice reject it.