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Avow or Avoid?: The Public Communication Strategies of Enron and WorldCom
Unformatted Document Text:  Avow or Avoid? 18 In early July WorldCom began making the case for its survival (Why WorldCom Must, July 1, 2002: WorldCom Press Conference, July 2, 2002). WorldCom argued that saving the company was “in the interest of our national security” (Why WorldCom Must, July 1, 2002, para. 2). The company bolstered this case by suggesting that because WorldCom serves several federal agencies, including the Defense and State Departments, that its survival was in the best interest of the country. WorldCom further suggested that its demise would deal a tremendous blow to competition in the telecommunications sector. The dominant message strategy was a traditional public relations model. The tone of the company’s communication – in addition to pleading the national and capitalistic interests – continued to state outrage while pledging dedication to open and transparent investigation and communication. Sidgmore continued the legal blame game as he placed emphasis on new management, self-discovery and -disclosure, and transparent communication. I want to remind everybody that it was this company that audited our auditors. It was this company that turned itself in. It was this management team that took matters to the SEC. And it is this management team that will take this company forward and restore public confidence… I am responsible for what we do now and for what we do in the future. And what we’re going to do is fully investigate any past transgression and move forward in a completely open and honest manner… I am committed to operating WorldCom with the highest possible standards of ethics and integrity… If we’re going to be a model for corporate behavior going forward, we must be absolutely transparent, and we’re committed to that. (WorldCom Press Conference, July 2, 2002) Sidgmore promised to “release everything that we know when we know it” (WorldCom Press Conference, July 2, 2002, para. 11) but acknowledged that many questions may remain unanswered as the investigation seeks to uncover them. In another July 1, 2002 release WorldCom delivered its report to the SEC and acknowledged additional bad news – “termination of its $1.5 billion accounts receivable securitization program” and “lenders…have notified the company that events of default have

Authors: Reber, Bryan. and Gower, Karla.
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Avow or Avoid?
18
In early July WorldCom began making the case for its survival (Why WorldCom Must,
July 1, 2002: WorldCom Press Conference, July 2, 2002). WorldCom argued that saving the
company was “in the interest of our national security” (Why WorldCom Must, July 1, 2002, para.
2). The company bolstered this case by suggesting that because WorldCom serves several
federal agencies, including the Defense and State Departments, that its survival was in the best
interest of the country. WorldCom further suggested that its demise would deal a tremendous
blow to competition in the telecommunications sector. The dominant message strategy was a
traditional public relations model.
The tone of the company’s communication – in addition to pleading the national and
capitalistic interests – continued to state outrage while pledging dedication to open and
transparent investigation and communication. Sidgmore continued the legal blame game as he
placed emphasis on new management, self-discovery and -disclosure, and transparent
communication.
I want to remind everybody that it was this company that audited our
auditors. It was this company that turned itself in. It was this management team
that took matters to the SEC. And it is this management team that will take this
company forward and restore public confidence…
I am responsible for what we do now and for what we do in the future.
And what we’re going to do is fully investigate any past transgression and move
forward in a completely open and honest manner… I am committed to operating
WorldCom with the highest possible standards of ethics and integrity…
If we’re going to be a model for corporate behavior going forward, we
must be absolutely transparent, and we’re committed to that. (WorldCom Press
Conference, July 2, 2002)
Sidgmore promised to “release everything that we know when we know it” (WorldCom
Press Conference, July 2, 2002, para. 11) but acknowledged that many questions may remain
unanswered as the investigation seeks to uncover them.
In another July 1, 2002 release WorldCom delivered its report to the SEC and
acknowledged additional bad news – “termination of its $1.5 billion accounts receivable
securitization program” and “lenders…have notified the company that events of default have


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