September 17, 2004
PR Firm Claims Influence Over Blogs (UPDATED W/APOLOGY)
Posted by Bill
Ok, let's review the claim of my alleged puppetmasters:
Creative Response Concepts (CRC), the VA-based agency promoting the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, used right-wing blogs and news sites to turn a CBS report casting doubt on President George W. Bush's National Guard service into a potential black eye for both the network and the Democrats.
A CRC client, the Cybercast News Service (CNS), was among the first to voice suspicion that documents suggesting Bush had received preferential treatment in the Guard were forgeries.
"After the CBS story aired, [CNS] called typographical experts, got them on the record that these papers were fishy, and posted a story by 3pm Thursday," said CRC SVP Keith Appell. "We were immediately in contact with [Matt] Drudge, who loved the story."
My response: using every bit of self-control possible, I'd like to politely state that this assertion is ludicrous. INDC's coverage was not influenced, motivated or coordinated with any PR firm working with the SwiftVets, and any attempts to claim some special hand in formulating the story is a load of delusional horsecrap. I performed research based on the cogent argumentation found on the Powerline post and my highly skeptical reading of the documents themselves.
Lest anyone buy this ridiculous narrative, there is no "there" there.
And for the record, blogs scooped CNS by hours. I mean, Dr. Bouffard and I had made up silly nicknames for each other by the time they called their first expert ... (ok, maybe that's not's true)
UPDATE: And another thing that strikes me: how absolutely tone deaf does a PR firm have to be in order to trumpet their influence on the situation when they are a firm that is affiliated with the SwiftVets (generally assumed to be a partisan entity). From a public relations standpoint, this is pure incompetence.
UPDATE: Think again Kos, they're not that good. Look at the time stamps, Inspector Gadget.
UPDATE: CRC apologizes and clarifies, and it's good enough for me:
"Please understand, we never meant to imply that the blogosphere is something we did, or even could, control or direct. No one controls the bloggers. The extraordinary depth and breadth of their talent and resources only breeds one thing: a fierce independence much needed in the country. They are a force the PR industry and news media need to pay greater attention to.
"In the interview with PR Week, we tried to communicate that the bloggers, and then CNS www.cnsnews.com, were moving this story, which we then began pushing to conservative media, news websites and "mainstream" press.
"If anything, we're just proud that our client, CNS News, provided some hard news reporting to add some gasoline to the already rampant wildfire that the bloggers had started. Do we deserve credit for that? Not nearly as much as the guys at PowerLine, Instapundit, LittleGreenFootballs, INDCJournal, Allahpundit, and so many others deserve."
Posted by Bill at September 17, 2004 05:24 PM | TrackBack (8)
- Bill - did you seriously believe that the estabished work stream would miss the chance, using their easy access to the MSM, to score the credit in this story. They took the position of mild patronizing and disparagement at first, waiting to see the trend of battle, but now that they see the tide is flowing in the bloggers direction they quickly switch sides and claim authorship. Just a reminder its a jungle out there.....
Posted by: Hunter at September 17, 2004 05:34 PM
"And for the record, blogs scooped CNS by hours."
And in Internet time, hours seem like days.
Posted by: Joe at September 17, 2004 05:35 PM
I am trying to be calm about this story because, 1) It's in a magazine called PR Week, and if it's possible for someone's credibility to be lower than CBS, it has to be a rag called PR Week, and 2) If you have actually read articles in CNS it appears to exist solely to provide a linkage spot for Drudge, and he doesn't even list it in his news sources on his page.
Posted by: Thad O at September 17, 2004 05:39 PM
And in a related development, Al Gore has just claimed to have invented blogs.
Posted by: JB at September 17, 2004 05:45 PM
PR Week is actually a well-respected professional publication for the PR Industry.
Posted by: Bill from INDC Journal at September 17, 2004 05:47 PM
The next thing we're going to hear is that the VRWC and the Swiftvets have been holding Burkett captive for ten years.
They wanted to wait until Mrs. Knox was dead, she just wouldn't cooperate!
Posted by: Kathy at September 17, 2004 06:13 PM
If this PR firm is so damn skippy, how come the SwiftVet's story disappeared from most TV screens (except for the ad buys) in a couple of heartbeats?
Here's a thought: Everyone who's posted anything about Rathergate should do a word count on all related posts and bill the stupid clowns for services rendered.
After all, they just said we were working for them.
Pony up, you punks!
Posted by: TC-LeatherPenguin at September 17, 2004 06:55 PM
Part of the reason for the magnitude of the Rathergate story was the magnitude of the initial promotion.
Had CBS not gone to such lengths to promote their initial story it's likely that some pajama-wearing people would have just posted some stuff.
Think of it this way, back before the Internet and blogosphere. Geraldo's Al Capone's Vault was a story. It was hyped to the heavens.
So, what if Geraldo had found some stuff in Al Capone's vault? Accurate, if not authentic stuff? Fake, yet true? That would have made for far better television than what we actually saw.
If a person had put a trunk, some some clothes, maybe a couple of coins, a couple pieces of jewelry, some liquor bottle in the vault, THAT would have been television.
A viewer who had some experience with coins might have noticed that one of the coins in the pile was a steel penny, which wasn't around until World War II.
And a viewer who worked in a jewelry store for years noticed a piece of jewelry used a setting that wasn't developed until the 1970s.
Somebody with OCD might have noticed that the dust had not settled uniformly.
And Stephen Green might have noticed that the liquor bottle was a vodka bottle that looked like it had a photoshopped old-timey label pated on it.
Each would have noticed some quirks, but none of them had the means to communicate with each other. Blogs give people with niche expertise the chance to quickly chime in as part of an overall story.
Which is not to say that Geraldo had anything to do in this hypothetical.
But it would be worth asking the producer.
Posted by: BumperStickerist at September 17, 2004 07:17 PM
Does anyone other than me find it funny that they don't mention by name any of the "right-wing blogs" they supposedly used? Not to mention that by 3 pm Thursday, the story was already long full-blown. Sounds to me like the anonymous experts line that CBS used to authenticate their documents.
Any luck of pressuring them to name even one blog that they worked with that contributed to finding out that the memos are forgeries? They did mention Drudge, so maybe Drudge should come out and say "Nope, sorry, by the time you guys contacted us we already had plenty of others filling us in" or something.
Seems like they're trying to take credit for what they didn't do.
On a side note...I wonder if PR Week bothered to vet them out and ask them to give proof that they were the ones whose blogs broke the story, or were even influential.
Posted by: Vanshalar at September 17, 2004 07:39 PM
Not to mention that by 3 pm Thursday, the story was already long full-blown. Sounds to me like the anonymous experts line that CBS used to authenticate their documents.
No kidding. I checked, and my first post on it was at 9:52am, Thursday. The Powerline post was two hours old by then, and the Freeper discussion was hours older.
These guys are what a boss of mine called "the bad side of PR" -- like astroturfers and push-polling. They deserve the derision they're getting.
Posted by: Robert Crawford at September 17, 2004 07:56 PM
It seems a little fishy to me. I hate to sound so conspiratorial, but it sounds like someone wants it to seem like everyone on the right runs on the same playbook. (a.k.a. the right wing conspiracy)and by grouping the swiftvets and the bloggers together it makes it appear like a big coordinated effort.And thus lessens the overall impact.
Posted by: Phil@rightonamerica at September 17, 2004 08:00 PM
The mag may or may not be respectable, but their attempt to claim credit is pathetic and is not good PR work.
Posted by: mikem at September 17, 2004 09:42 PM
Buckhead is outed on the front page of the LA Times:
WASHINGTON - It was the first public allegation that CBS News used forged memos in its report questioning President Bush’s National Guard service -- a highly technical explanation posted within hours of airtime citing proportional spacing and font styles.
But it did not come from an expert in typography or typewriter history as some first thought. Instead, it was the work of Harry W. MacDougald, an Atlanta lawyer with strong ties to conservative Republican causes and who helped draft the petition urging the Arkansas Supreme Court to disbar President Clinton following the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the Los Angeles Times has found.
Posted by: Randy at September 17, 2004 10:31 PM
Shit fire, Drudge couldn't tote my jockey shorts.
Posted by: Electronic Bubba at September 17, 2004 11:32 PM