Two Sides of Pro Bono

When I think of pro bono in public relations, I’m reminded of the yeoman work many agencies and individuals perform on behalf of non-profit and non-governmental organizations, many of which are sucking wind in this economic climate.

The personal satisfaction one derives from using his or her professionals skills to advance a worthwhile cause is second to none, and cuts across many professions.

This week, we witnessed a contemporary model of pro bono activism when thousands of individuals around the world, this blogger among them, tapped their digital spheres of influence to generate awareness and participation in Twestival in support of charity: water, an organization that delivers potable water in less-developed countries. Didn’t it feel good to give of yourself to support this very worthwhile cause?

But then there are those who conduct “pro bono” work for the lure of the media spotlight and their own aggrandizement. (That is until they receive death threats for doing so.) It’s unclear whether the Tampa PR firm repping Blago and Drew Patterson was compensated for its dual brushes with infamy, or what the fee structures are for others in the “celebrity” space. At least Paris Hilton can pay her publicist, but I bet other PR types do it gratis just to be near their infamous celebrity clients.

Today we learn that the firm that so generously donated its time to represent the welfare woman who literally conceived her celebrity in a petri dish has resigned after receiving death threats. According to The AP:

“The Killeen Furtney Group was ending its free representation after receiving at least 100 graphic e-mailed threats and swarms of nasty voicemails that went to the Los Angeles agency and even to some of its other clients, Killeen said.”

I wonder if this experience will give Ms. Killeen pause when contemplating the client company she keeps? Unlikely.

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