Down in Front: When Should PR Professionals Have a Public Face?

When White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer serves as the official mouthpiece for the Bush Administration, it is understood that this is a unique case in the field: a press relations officer acting as a public buffer between media and a chief executive, as a recognizable face for his "company." After all, bringing down Hussein, hunting Bin Laden, and clearing brush on the Texas ranch keeps the President fairly busy. Outside of the White House press room, however, as many large corporations suffer from the ongoing crisis of confidence, executives may be tempted to throw that PR exec in front of the curtain and have her take the offensive with the press - or just take the heat. If they haven't already, many PR pros soon may have to ask whether and in what instances it is acceptable for the communications executive or PR agency to serve as the public spokesperson for a company. Not surprisingly, most professionals we surveyed say almost never: communications executives should make a policy of staying outside the limelight, whether they're internal employees or agency staffers.

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