Confessions of
A PR Man
Robert J. Wood
We once had this vision of the PR man hired on in 1938 to explain to the denizens of the city of Auschwitz why they were going to have all this ugly construction work going on in their neighborhood.

"Don't worry," he says, speaking before the regular monthly luncheon meeting of the Auschwitz Chamber of Commerce, "We're going to bring in over six million marks worth of local construction --- carpentry, cement, wiring, fencing, housing, and towers. If you add the 1,000 new guards, officers, and clerical help on the permanent labor force, we're talkin' jobs that will be doubling the local economy." And the members of the Auschwitz Better Business Bureau look around and nod their heads and vote to give their personal backing and thanks to the national government for this newest project as they think of the Deutschmarks rolling in.

Now, we'd be the last to make any parallels between this and the various works of Robert J. Wood with his Byoir PR firm over the last thirty years --- but he does lay some unlikely strutting on us in this roman à thèse. Northeast Utilities wants to build a nuclear plant, and the neighbors don't dig it. Turn it over to Woods. He proves to those nervous nellies that radiation is no worse than slutswool under the bed; soon enough everyone wants their own nuclear plant there next to the backyard barbecue.

An "atomic radiation center" scheduled for construction by CIT Corp in Ohio? No prob, babe. Woods has these heavy-weight friends on the AEC, they'll pull some strings --- the radiation center gets built, and the citizens just love it. That bastard Jesse Jackson giving you a fit at the A & P, with his Operation Breadbasket? Not to worry: a few meetings with some friendly newspaper folks, a couple of arrests (complaints signed by a front man, not the Atlantic & Pacific), executives never at home when the opposition comes calling --- and A & P is out of the woods.

Finally, there's that Hyatt Regency in Kansas City. You remember? --- the one owned by Hallmark Cards, the one where the suspended walkway collapses, killing a hundred people, injuring two hundred more. Bad press for Hallmark?

Hey --- don't fret. Woods is on the job. When the carping critics start in on the sin of cheap construction and corporate profits, we lead with a right:

I assigned a Byoir staffer to work in Kansas City full time, dealing with the daily PR problems that kept cropping up as a result of the investigations, the lawsuits, and related matters. These were mostly minor matters. Mostly minor.

Got a problem with death, dismemberment, crippled-for-life, personal trauma, physical ruination. No prob. Just call on Woods, the PR man's PR man. He'll take care of anything and everything. For no more than a little blood money.

--- Lolita Lark

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