Great Moments In Public Relations, Part 3,724

Posted by: Jon Fine on July 06, 2006

The following was sent to a BusinessWeek colleague and the veracity of it was confirmed with the sender by another editor here, Deborah Stead. (Emphasis mine on the below. What follows is kind of gruesome, but I am forced to agree on one point: Death is certainly one way of “denying reality.”.)

From: Dave Overton
Sent: Wednesday, July 05, 2006 12:27 PM
To: Beucke, Dan
Subject: [NEWMANPR] - Why the demise of Ken Lay?


Dan,

One of the top reasons why CEOs get fired is “Denying Reality.” In milder cases, a CEO will quit rather than let a horrible truth puncture their fantastical views. Or they’ll blame their workers or board. They’ll craft all sorts of psychological defense mechanisms to avoid shouldering culpability.

One could argue in Lay’s case that the truth he would be forced to confront (bankrupt company, displaced workers, destroyed nest eggs, prison, etc.) was so horrible, and so unavoidable, that his body simply shut down rather than confront a terrible reality.

Lay’s death may be the equivalent of a child sticking their fingers in their ears to avoid hearing something bad. But a lot more final.

Mark Murphy is CEO of Leadership IQ, a Washington, D.C. based management consulting firm.

Mark has some interesting thoughts on the demise of Ken Lay and how others can avoid his fate.

Please let me know if you would like to speak with him.

Thanks for your time.


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Reader Comments

Kevin Dugan

July 6, 2006 11:05 PM

Jon - This horrible pitch has been posted to the Bad Pitch Blog.

http://tinyurl.com/lm2ry

The blog was created by PR people to shine a light on stunts like this. We're hoping this will help other PR people avoid making the same mistakes.

We're tired of seeing this occur too. If you have any more bad pitches, feel free to send them our way.

Thanks.

berky

July 6, 2006 11:19 PM

jon-even if i'm only one of 4 people in the universe that noticed your 'great moments in pr' re: Ken Lay comments presented by a PR firm, and one of 3 that picked up on the fact that you're 'tipping' other channels.. (your email to gawker)---i still have to say that you win this week's NY Times Award for Irresponsible Journalism...Since when does a BW reporter take exception to story idea and lambast it by "blogging" other sites. If you think the idea of putting Ken Lay on a pedestal is good journalism, and rebuking well-regarded experts that are using their free speech rights to call it as it is--than you and Alex Baldwin should both move to Australia...and on the way, you should take a job at the Huffington Post.. Does your editor know that you're forwarding story ideas to third party media sites...and trying to make a name for yourself??? Is this typical practice at BW>??-Jon--if you don't know it already, Ken Lay was far from the God-fearing altruist that he would have had the world to believe.. It took less than 30 seconds for a jury of those that had wanted acquit him to convict him of selling $80 million in Enron stock at the same time he was encouraging pensioners to put their life savings into the stock...give us a f--king break...the guy lost is moral compass years ago! Why in the world would a media reporter like you risk his reputation by undermining someone with a well-established track record in the area of best practices and ethical business standards who decided to call it has it is? Are you stupid, or campaigning for a job with Fox News?

AG

July 10, 2006 12:46 PM

I don't think the columnist sent the post to Gawker; or, if he did, he certainly wasn't the only one.

EF

July 31, 2006 05:42 PM

Besides Berky completely missing the point as to why Jon posted this truly dreadful pitch from a PR professional (as one myself, this is truly embarrassing and makes me understand why some of journalist friends complain about PR folks) does it really matter if Jon sent this to Gawker? Doubtful the powers that to be consider Gawker a competitor and if Berky hadn't noticed, this is the age of information sharing. And, seriously, what was Berky's point? I still can't figure it out.

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The media, entertainment and marketing worlds continue to shapeshift on a near-daily basis, as new forms arise and old assumptions erode. Where is it all going? No one really knows. But on this blog BusinessWeek’s media writers Tom Lowry and Ron Grover promise to provide ample helpings of scoop, provocation, and sharp analysis as they track and annotate this constantly changing terrain.

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