Internet Association Aims to Change Image of Web

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The Association of Internet Professionals is gearing up to launch a $10 million public relations campaign that addresses the media's portrayal of the Internet industry.

The organization is forming an advocacy group as part of the effort and has already contracted a public relations firm, Alexander Ogilvy, part of the Ogilvy Public Relations unit of the WPP Group, to manage the campaign.

In addition, the nationwide association sent an e-mail in late February to its 11,500 individual and 160 corporate members, saying that the campaign's purpose was to "vigorously address the media's portrayal of the Internet industry" and to counter the "gloom and doom" themes that dominate Internet coverage.

AIP plans to gather positive stories and a list of spokespeople for companies such as Microsoft and IBM.

"[Our goal is] when [a media organization] is writing a story about layoffs, it will have a representative from the Association of Internet Professionals who says, `Yes, but the Internet still employs 5 million people,' " Harriet Held, associate executive director at the AIP, said.

According to the association, the current wave of Internet media coverage has shifted focus from highlighting the benefits of Internet technology to "gloom and doom" themes presaging that the dot-com bubble has burst.

"It seems that every night on the news, the only stories the public hears about the Internet are stock prices dropping, layoffs in the dot-com sector and computer virus warnings," said Stephen P. Lawson, executive director/CEO of AIP. "Media headlines are overlooking the amazing breakthroughs, benefits, cost saving and efficiency that this industry has brought to the public in general."

Lawson said the only way AIP can aggressively promote the positive aspects of dot-coms and Internet workers is by forming the AIP-Internet Advocacy Group.

"AIP is mounting a $10 million war chest to accomplish this effort and is seeking active participation from companies and leaders of the Internet industry to provide the resources and commitment for this effort," Lawson said.

"The dairy and meat industries have aggressively protected themselves, as well as promoted their positive industry efforts, to ensure that their views are heard and respected," he added. "When an article is released regarding mad cow disease, the Meat Packers Association, through its crisis PR management, responds immediately. They are able to do this because of the support and funding from member companies. ... The need is real, and this call-to-action is urgent."

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