Ketchum Says “Lapse in Judgement” Done with “Highest Integrity”

Here’s Ketchum’s apology statement, released selectively to journalists.

It is not posted on Ketchum or Omni Group’s website, and was not cleared on any of the wire services.

It has been kept far away from Google’s spiders, for fear of being indexed and made searchable forever more.

Google SERPs is the front pages news of tomorrow. An even if they aren’t skilled in SEO, they know the importance of keeping this off the digital record.

PR Week has this posted on their website but their site is not RSS-enabled, so it’s unlikely Google News will index either.

So this is my attempt to bring it to the PR trade’s attention and put this firmly on the record online:

Ketchum is committed to adhering to industry guidelines and to high ethical standards in every aspect of its business practices. Ketchum has its own Code of Business Ethics, which includes a commitment to present our clients’ products, services, or positions truthfully and accurately. Every new Ketchum colleague is asked to sign this code upon joining the firm.

In working with the Department of Education to create advertising for its No Child Left Behind Act, Ketchum contracted with the Graham Williams Group. Long before he entered a contract with us, Mr. Armstrong Williams, principal of this advertising/public relations agency and also a commentator, was an advocate for the No Child Left Behind program, which he strongly supported during a number of television appearances.

We should have recognized the potential issues in working with a communications firm operated by a commentator. Mr. Williams repeatedly has acknowledged that he should have disclosed the nature of his relationship with the Department of Education. We agree. As a result this work did not comply with the guidelines of our agency and our industry. Under those guidelines, it is clear that we should have encouraged greater disclosure. There was a lapse of judgment in this situation. We regret that this has occurred.

We are taking this matter very seriously and have the following steps underway to make sure that we always meet the existing guidelines of both the agency and the industry.

We are putting in place a new policy for the signing and authorization of contracts with spokespeople.

In agency-wide communications we have underscored our guidelines about how our people should represent our client work to the media.

We have established a central number for our people to call if they have any questions.

We are developing a new process by which we deal with subcontracts. In short, all subcontractors will be expected to abide by the agency’s ethical standards.

Over the past ten days we have worked with external legal counsel to investigate the facts associated with our contract with the Department and the Graham Williams Group.

While our review of the situation is still underway, we wanted to let you know where it stands at the moment and reiterate that we would never encourage this type of behavior.

We certainly are not pleased by this turn of events and are committed to working with the government and our industry in addressing this situation.

Ketchum has been around more than 80 years. We are proud of our heritage and more importantly we are proud of our values.

We have always acted with the highest integrity and are committed to ensuring our colleagues understand and abide by the guidelines under which we operate.

But much as George Orwell, the father of doublespeak wrote in a 1946 essay, political language is designed “to give an appearance of solidarity to pure wind.”

Don’t they know when to play politics and when to eat crow?

Maybe Ketchum could use a little help from Lanny Davis.

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