Pr: The Pot Calls The Kettle Black

In "The high priest of hype" (Books, Aug. 17), Marilyn Harris unfairly maligned the thousands of people who make an honorable living in corporate public relations. As someone who has practiced corporate public relations for 16 years, I take issue with Ms. Harris' statement that "In PR, truthfulness is rarely even on the radar screen as a value, except perhaps as a convenient option or legal consideration."

As in any profession, there are some PR people who do not maintain high ethical standards. But Harris has chosen to paint all PR people with the same brush, in the same way that some people would smear the journalistic profession by pointing to the unethical practices of tabloid journalists. BUSINESS WEEK should know better than to smear the thousands of hardworking PR people who have assisted them in putting out an accurate magazine every week by helping reporters check facts, arranging interviews with executives, and in some cases even providing interesting story ideas.

Bernard J. Kilkelly

Vice-President

Corporate Communications

Enhance Financial Services

Group Inc.

New York

Marilyn Harris' characterization of the public-relations industry is unfair and inaccurate. While claiming that journalists remain committed to seeking the truth, she contends that "truthfulness is rarely even on the radar screen" in PR. This is a gross distortion. We advise our clients that rule No.1 of media relations is to tell the truth. Ours is not the only PR agency to have resigned accounts or declined business from companies that want professional liars, not professional communicators.

At best, Harris' analysis is poorly timed, given recent examples of journalists caught writing columns with invented characters or filing false stories. Viewed through the prism of these unfortunate experiences, media might want to think twice about throwing stones at PR people from their glass houses.

Robert W. Pickard

Executive Vice-President

Environics Communications

Stamford, Conn.

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