Does Big Business Have A PR Problem?

From today’s New York Times:

More than ever, Americans do not trust business or the people who run it.
Pollsters, researchers, even many corporate chiefs themselves say that business is under attack by a majority of the public, which believes that executives are bent on destroying the environment, cooking the books and lining their own pockets.
Many executives, while acknowledging the public antipathy, adamantly dispute the criticism. They note that some companies were more helpful than government in the wake of the tsunami in Asia and the Gulf Coast hurricanes. They argue that they are disclosing more financial information, and have cracked down on unethical behavior.
James R. Houghton, chairman of Corning, said he felt little animosity in Corning, N.Y., even though his company had cut thousands of jobs there. “Maybe I’m in an ivory tower, but I think society realizes that 98 percent of businesses are doing the right thing,” he said. “The press doesn’t write that, because it’s the world’s most boring story, and because business does a really lousy job of promoting itself.”

I know we’ve got some PR people who read AdPulp. What do y’all think? Is more/better PR needed? Or is there just an inherent nature in people to hate the big guys?

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. Big business is doing the right thing for people who enjoy the business. That’s a large percentage of American consumers. They actually look happy shopping and working so they must be happy. The “for every pot, there’s a matching lid” theory.
    I think there are a percentage of people larger than two, who look under the lid and into the pot and feel that the stone soup is really just water and rocks. Those are the ones that go out and grow their own vegetables that eventually end up in the real soup anyway!

  2. I don’t think it’s a PR issue. And I disagree with James Houghton who says business does a lousy job of promoting itself (wouldn’t want to be head of PR at Corning this morning). All the “promotion” in the world can’t undo the damage that one Enron-style meltdown inflicts.
    It’s a behavior issue, and an accountability issue. Some businesses abuse the system, and it reflects poorly on everyone. In the meantime, even many honest businesses focus too much on the short term without regard for how their actions impact consumer trust over time.
    I also think Americans experience so much frustration every day in their interactions with the companies they do business with that it tarnishes their view of the whole.
    Horrible phone systems. Rude salespeople. Inane rules. Total lack of service. Ripoffs and scams. All these reflect businesses short-term focus on profits over long-term relationships with customers, and consumers know it.