PR Agency Role In Nutrition Guidelines Questioned

Discussion
Apr 12, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Fact: The pubic relations agency, Porter Novelli, was hired by the Agriculture Department to design an icon to help consumers better understand the federal government’s new nutritional
guidelines. The firm previously designed the food pyramid for the USDA.

Fact: Other clients of Porter Novelli include national food brands and restaurants.

Fact: Some are concerned that on a subtle level at least, Porter Novelli will influence the final icon design to the advantage of the clients it represents.

Fact: The government and Porter Novelli say fact those concerns are not warranted. The firm’s job is to graphically depict the government’s recommendations — not set the
policy.

Moderator’s Comment: Are the concerns expressed about Porter Novelli’s involvement in creating a new icon for federal nutrition guidelines valid? What
other thoughts do you have on the government’s system for developing guidelines of the conclusions it reaches?

George Anderson – Moderator

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6 Comments on "PR Agency Role In Nutrition Guidelines Questioned"


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Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

This shouldn’t be a story, because it shouldn’t be happening. It’s not a direct conflict of interest, but it can certainly give the appearance of conflict of interest. The government should have stepped wide of this one. We need to do all we can to build public trust, not undermine it. This undermines it.

Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 10 months ago

Porter Novelli is a very professional agency. It is against the basic principles of their business to confuse or conflict clients needs or goals. They would have many more unhappy clients if they allowed one client’s needs to affect the work they do for another than if they subtly tried to incorporate other client’s needs.

Ron Margulis
Guest
15 years 10 months ago
Conflict of interest is one of the critical issues facing those of us in the PR profession today. We at RAM Communications do work for Teradata, the data warehouse division of NCR, so we won’t accept work from Oracle, one of its primary competitors. But what if IBM, which also competes with Teradata in data warehousing and with another division of NCR with its POS solutions, offered us work supporting their POS division? We don’t have a retainer with the NCR division the sells POS solutions, so is there a conflict? I think there is at the very least the perception of a conflict, and that’s why we won’t do work for IBM (also, they’ve never called). As a writer, there is an even finer edge to the conflict of interest sword. On this site and in the other publications I write for, I am very clear when there is even a hint of conflict. I’ll always disclose any relationship my firm has that is even remotely related to the topic being discussed. I just… Read more »
Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 10 months ago

I’d be more concerned with the methodology used by the Agriculture Department to come up with the newest guidelines. Government work is not exactly the most exacting.

My sympathies lie with Porter Novelli which has to translate all this government information into a form that just regular folk can read.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

If there is even the slightest perception that manipulation is possible then the guidelines, the industry and Porter Novelli themselves are up the creek without the proverbial paddle. Is that really clever? This is a silly and unnecessary situation which shouldn’t have arisen. The publicity recently given to government use of public relations companies must surely make a few people, at least, doubt that any company with any links at all to the industry can be totally transparent. Even if they are whiter than white, they have been tarnished.

Anna Murray
Guest
Anna Murray
15 years 10 months ago

It seems to me that the Federal Government does not normally do a great job with marketing and communications. So it makes sense that the Department of Agriculture would hire an agency that specializes in food and food communication.

Agencies are constantly dealing with issue of conflicts of interest. These things can be handled if the program goals are clear and also with separate, dedicated teams.

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