Eric Dezenhall

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Eric Dezenhall is a writer and damage control consultant hired by PRISM, an organization set up by the Association of American Publishers to fight the open access movement. According to his website[1], he is the president of Dezenhall Resources[2], a crisis management firm with offices in Washington, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and London

Dezenhall worked in President Reagan's communications office. Later he helped ExxonMobil by pulling strings to have the IRS audit Greenpeace, and organizing demonstrations against "Global Whining"[3].

In November 29, 2010, Greenpeace filed a lawsuit[4] against two chemical companies, their PR firms and several individuals for activities that amount to corporate espionage. The suit alleges that Dow Chemical and Sasol used the firm Dezenhall Resources (at the time called Nichols Dezenhall) and another firm to hire private investigators from Beckett Brown International to spy on Greenpeace from 1998 to 2000.

Dezenhall has also worked for Jeffrey Skilling, then CEO of Enron. According to BusinessWeek[3]:

internal Dezenhall communications from 2003 show that employees there discussed a plan to pay newspaper opinion writers to publish articles questioning the credibility and motivation of Enron whistleblower Sherron Watkins.

Other clients include Michael Jackson, Eli Lilly and Company, and Motel 6[3].

His book Nail 'em, Confronting High-Profile Attacks on Celebrities and Business deals with public relation damage control.[5] In this book, he wrote:

Damage control used to be about soft, fuzzy concepts like image. Now it's about survival, and this has made the battle bloodier.

Dezenhall has repeatedly been called the "Pit Bull of Public Relations" [3][6][7].

Work for PRISM

A stir was caused in January 2007 when some of Dezenhall's strategies for PRISM's fight against open access were exposed by Nature magazine[8].

According to emails[9] obtained by Nature, he advised PRISM to focus on messages such as "Public access equals government censorship", and hinted that publishers should try to to equate traditional publishing models with peer review, and "paint a picture of what the world would look like without peer-reviewed articles". (The full text of this message is available.) This strategy is clearly implemented in PRISM's website[10] and letter-writing campaign.[11]

However, he conceded that "it's hard to fight an adversary that manages to be both elusive and in possession of a better message: Free information."

References

  1. Eric Dezenhall - Author
  2. Dezenhall Reources, website
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Eamon Javers, The pit bull of public relations, BusinessWeek, 2006-04-17
  4. Greenpeace, [Spygate: why did a private security firm spy on Greenpeace?]
  5. Eric Dezenhall's biography.
  6. Publishing Group Hires 'Pit Bull of PR': Association turns to Dezenhall to fight patient advocacy groups, Washington Post, 2007-01-26.
  7. David Biello, Open access to science under attack, Scientific American, 2007-01-26.
  8. Jim Giles, PR's 'pit bull' takes on open access: Journal publishers lock horns with free-information movement, Nature, 24 January 2007; doi:10.1038/445347a
  9. Email by Dezenhall, as found on the New Scientist blog Short Sharp Science, 20007-09-20
  10. PRISM website
  11. PRISM - take action.

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