PR: War by Other Means

"The PR race is not that different from the arms race," writes John Feffer. "Russia, for instance, recently paid nearly $3 million to Ketchum for a six-month media blitz to promote the country's leaders and policies. Georgia has retained Public Strategies, Inc. at $50,000 a month. And the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia have hired Mark Saylor Co. at $30,000 a month. An uptick of spending on one side will inevitably lead to an increase on the other side, as PR becomes war by other means. The firms hope that the spin they set in motion will, through the alchemy of the media, turn into 'facts' in an editorial, or an op-ed, or even a reporter's dispatch." Russia paid Ketchum another $2.9 million "for the six months [that] ended May 31," reports O'Dwyer's PR Daily, for outreach to "top-tier global media leaders" highlighting Russia's "leadership and national policies." The Saylor firm is tasked with "explain[ing] how the Russian military saved the civilian population of South Ossetia from Georgian military forces" and countering the "aggressive information war conducted by the Government of Georgia," according to O'Dwyer's. The Moscow Times adds that Los Angeles Times editor-turned-PR executive Mark Saylor promoted South Ossetian "human rights activist Lira Tskhovrebova on a trip to the United States" in December. The U.S. State Department canceled meetings with Tskhovrebova, after it was revealed she had ties to the South Ossetian KGB.