PR disaster just don't compute

Embattled Hewlett Packard Chairman Patty Dunn – now facing possible criminal indictment over the computer company’s snooping scandal – has begun her own PR offensive. And that’s quite a fitting term for her synthetic appeal to the media before the case has fully run its course. (Incidentally, her lawyers are fighting her PR corner, we hear; cue PR disaster, anyone?).Trying hard (in complementary, soft focus shots) to convince 60 Minutes that she’s the victim of circumstances, and neither the perpetrator or authority behind the unethical surveillance tactic of ‘pretexting’, Patty shamelessly proclaimed, “I am innocent”.

Not guilty of engaging, briefing or sanctioning the efforts of a ruthless third party investigator?

Not guilty of excusing her company’s lack of ethics, by pointing out how others had also behaved unethically before her investigations commenced?

Not guilty of doing what she says VC bigwig Tom Perkins done, namely, conducting ‘a campaign of disinformation’ with the media and relevant stakeholders?

Not guilty of seeming to leverage a current personal illness in attempts to win some public sympathy? (I do, however, wish her all the best on that score).

I’m not excusing the fact that the media leaks that catalysed this sorry business were the work of an underminer, possibly furthering a personal agenda. Neither am I downplaying the importance for any company or organization to identify and then address rumours, innuendo or misinformation. But as Chairman, Patty’s job also involved managing the firm’s PR and reputation, and she ballsed that up big time by bringing them into disrepute, then continuing to add fuel to the flames with her new PR quest.

Where were frank and clear admissions of culpability?
Neither she, Tom Perkins, George Kenworth II or the media who compliantly report on this case of ‘pretexting’ (which, in plain English, is obtaining personal information via deception and lies) can hold their heads up over this reputation fiasco and PR disaster. If you’ve got enough money, an unconvincingly surprised Dunn told the 60 Minutes reporter, “you can buy and sell someone’s reputation”.

No kiddin’ Patty?

And if you’ve got enough chutzpah, you can deny your highly-paid Chairman’s role of ensuring that the company you’re governing conducts its business in an ethical and professional way. Expect to read Dunn’s ‘real story’ (zzzzzzz) in a book set to rival that of HP’s other ‘fallen woman’ Carly Fiorina.

For the record, no PR people were harmed in the unravelling of this PR disaster. Unlike over at Edelman and Wal-Mart…

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