real help in rebuilding trust in business, public
relations counselors "must reclaim our journalism
foundation that seems to have crumbled during the
past decade of fast and reckless growth. We need to
get back in touch with those disciplines that were
so critical to the public relations process when its
power was at its peak."
Richard H. Truitt,
2002 James C. Bowling
a story about Jack Guthrie's Lifetime Achievement
Award, click here.
Ky. (Oct. 17, 2002) -- At this "unfortunate
moment in the history of corporate trust," public
relations leaders are in a unique position to help
restore a sense of what is right for their companies," a business consultant told educators and journalism
students today at the University of Kentucky's School
of Journalism and Telecommunications.
"This is not about their familiar role of selling
corporate decisions," said Richard H. Truitt,
principal of Truitt Partners, LLC, a Connecticut-based
consulting company. "It is about helping management
arrive at the right decisions. They will be particularly
able to grow in this function if they are trained
as journalists," he said.
Truitt spoke at the third annual James C. Bowling
Executive-in-Residence Lecture Series, which each
year brings a nationally recognized public professional
to the campus to participate in journalism classes
and to consult with faculty and administrators. The
visit culminates in a campus lecture for faculty,
students and the community.
Truitt was introduced by John R. "Jack"
Guthrie, who said he "is the most consummate
public relations professional I have had the pleasure
of working with over the years." Guthrie, chairman
of Guthrie/Mayes Public Relations in Louisville, is
the school's 2002 Lifetime Achievement honoree.
Truitt acknowledged a decade-long decline of trust
in American institutions, and said the past 12 months
have been particularly painful.
"If we were security analysts in a down market,
we'd be looking for a bottom along about now. If we
were basketball fans losing a big game, we'd be looking
for a turnaround," he said. "But we are
educators and journalists and public relations practitioners,
and we just might have found our moment.
"If that's the case, its symbol is the sight
of corporate executives, one after the other, being
brought to the bar, embarrassed before their peers,
and perp-walked away in handcuffs."
Truitt said that to provide real help in rebuilding
trust in business, public relations counselors "must
reclaim our journalism foundation that seems to have
crumbled during the past decade of fast and reckless
growth. We need to get back in touch with those disciplines
that were so critical to the public relations process
when its power was at its peak."
In addition to "well-founded writing,"
and "the delicate art of persuasion," Truitt
said that public relations executives must apply their
capabilities to establishing a strong supporting role
in corporate ethics.
Truitt said that during his newspaper career as a
Chicago Tribune reporter, he learned the importance
of sensing and reporting parts and pieces of stories
that often were found deep below the surface.
"My education really began working with some
of the wise old heads who were covering impossible
beats in Chicago -- city hall, the environment, and
the South Side police," he said.
"I would sit in a meeting with one of these
veteran newsmen and pick up very little of substance.
But they would go back to the Tribune and file a story
wealthy with details about critical issues and heated
controversies that I had never tumbled to. They could
smell things that I couldn't even see or hear.
"Their senses penetrated deeply into the workings
of Chicago. They were more than reporters, and even
more than investigative reporters. They were spooks
who knew where all the skeletons were hanging and
who knew whether, when and how to deliver this information
"Can you imagine that tycoons at this moment
in post-bubble corporate America could use this kind
of professional sensitivity in framing the consciousness
of their corporations? You bet they could, and they're
not going to find it in the accounting department
or in law.
"They're going to find it down the stairs and
around the corner in public relations. These are the
folks who can look their bosses right in the eye and
say, 'That's a very interesting plan. How would you
feel if the Courier-Journal were to run a report about
your idea on tomorrow's front page?'
"In recent years, many of these corporate leaders
have not really bothered to understand what superb
communications could do for them. They were succeeding
too fast. But today, they need our kind of help, and
they know it. If you go to them as a skilled and sensitive
journalist with your head together, your facts in
order and your tools sharpened, they will listen."