Public Relations Consultancy Ketchum Apologizes through News Media

It's a good thing PR firm Ketchum apologized for paying conservative commentator Armstrong Williams to shill for No Child Left Behind on behalf of it's client the U.S. Dept. of Education.

But if they'd have been a little more proactive in disseminating their statement, I probably wouldn't be reading about a statement they issued two days ago for first time this morning.

Ketchum's statement apologizing for the scandal is mentioned in a couple of mainstream newspapers today, but it is not on Ketchum's website (or if it is, I certainly can't find it, and a search for “Armstrong Williams” returns only a dead link to last week's PR Week Op-Ed by Ray Kotcher blaming William's for failure to disclose their payola pact).

A search for “Ketchum” on Factiva does not return the statement, which was released Tuesday night, according to The Times. When will the earned media trade realize that SEO is PR these days.

So while it's a good thing they have apologized, they're making a mistake by not waging a proactive digital public relations campaign to support the disclosure of their apology publicly on their website. Sure, a PRnewswire release or RSS news feed might have been nice. We wouldn't have had to wait two days to hear about it.

Rather than hope the sheer volume of news that goes out with the keyword “Ketchum” on it will ultimately make searching for news about this scandal online like finding a needle in a haystack, it is foolish to keep their unfiltered apology off the public record.

As crisis communications expert Michael Sitrick says, “If you don't tell your story, someone else will tell it for you.”