Media attention on Booz Allen Hamilton exploded this week because of the Edward Snowden whistleblowing case.
PR professionals will be watching how the Virginia-based tech consulting firm deals with a crisis that drove TV and radio airings from a mere 10 in May to a staggering 1,567* in the first 11 days of June.
If any firm should know how to mount a proper response, it’s Booz, which is a “partner” of the Public Relations Society of America and routinely staffs a booth at PRSA’s professional development conferences with consultants ready to advise enterprises on how to organize their communications functions.
After the Guardian published a video interview with Snowden Sunday, Booz quickly published a one-paragraph response on its media page, headlined “Booz Allen Statement on Reports of Leaked Information”
“Booz Allen can confirm that Edward Snowden, 29, has been an employee of our firm for less than 3 months, assigned to a team in Hawaii. News reports that this individual has claimed to have leaked classified information are shocking, and if accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm. We will work closely with our clients and authorities in their investigation of this matter,” the statement read.
A day later, Booz started a dialog about the case on its Facebook page. To the firm’s credit, critical comments have not been removed.
The firm received only meager broadcast coverage in May.
It sponsored traffic reports on Washington, DC, radio station WTOP with this blurb. “Booz Alan Hamilton helps clients improve cyber security, government efficiency, health services and national offense.”
WTOP also covered a headcount reduction at Booz, which cited federal budget concerns for the RIF of 500 employees. One Booz executive was interviewed on Federal News Radio. Thad Allen, a former U.S. Coast Guard commandant who is a Booz executive vice president overseeing the firm’s activities in justice and homeland security, accepted an honorary doctorate at the commencement ceremonies for George Washington University.
What a difference a month makes.
The Booz link to the Snowden PRISM case has made the firm a lightning rod for issues ranging from background checks on government contractors to the wisdom of privatization in sensitive intelligence positions.
Coverage has not been limited to the United States. The Booz TV mentions have started to scale internationally on Bloomberg, CNBC Europe, the BBC and Canadian news channels.
Kudos to Booz for quickly posting a statement, announcing it with a tweet and following up with an unfettered discussion on its Facebook page.
With broadcasters paying so much attention to the firm, it will be interesting to see how and when additional information will be released for TV and radio stations covering the story.
*Updated at 4:20pm June 11, 2013