It’s the dread of every PR when the client is targeted as the poster child for a wider pernicious issue. In this case, tax avoidance.
Lauder’s PR strategy was to focus on nearly $250M in charitable donations. And while conceding that some transactions were designed for tax reasons, the PR emphasis was that they were code compliant.
No doubt it was an infuriating morning for Lauder. This is press coverage no one wants.
The PR Verdict: “B Plus” for Ron Lauder and his PR. Reputation management is never easy. Killing the story was unlikely as Lauder’s financial dealings are a matter of public record.
Next Step: Close the conversation with a follow-up Letter to the Editor, reiterating Lauder’s civic record, pointing out the absence of any known investigation into the client (if true). Consider releasing the number of total tax dollars Lauder paid over the same time period.
Draw a sharp distinction between efficient tax planning and the article’s suggestion of something altogether more unethical.
Above all, refrain from disclosing anything that takes the story further.