The marketing, advertising and PR field has no shortage of strong egos who will make a show of subsuming their identity into the client's — advocating their interests, speaking in their voice and venturing out in public wearing the client's uniform.
The public may have a good idea of the media reporters and commentators shaping their views of politics, news and events, but they have little clue about all the work these companies perform behind the scenes to attract and direct media attention.
Agency self-promotion can be aggressive, but it mostly takes place inside the industry. The names of Minnesota professionals rarely rise outside of local PR circles.
One that did was Paul Ridgeway's.
A story in the Strib this week exposed the financial troubles of the long-time impresario, who is renowned for his ability to orchestrate high-profile events, including Mikhail Gorbachev's visit to Minnesota and festivities surrounding big sports events.
Events organizers like Ridgeway are sort of the place kickers of the PR game. They might win a game once in awhile, and what they do is not easy to pull off, but they aren't considered the real players who shape strategy and message.
And in this economy, they're having trouble.
The new zeitgeist is not about throwing lavish parties and putting on spectacles. Nor is it kind to grandiose retail concepts like Ridgeway International's new Asian World Marketplace project, where the idea was to attract Chinese entrepreneurs to invest in the U.S. market. (The Chinese language website features a magazine cover portrayal of Ridgeway as Moses parting the waters for Asians.)
The reader comments piling up under the Strib account diverge on the story's importance and its meaning. Is it about an economy-stressed company, an unfair slap at a fine man or the partial exposure of a business figure whose good reputation was one of his smoke and mirror creations?
Snippets representative of the divide:
He is a totally honest man. I do believe that he will make everything right for people. Half of America took huge loses since this summer. Be patient, Paul will make it right. The Paul Ridgeway I know will pay every penny owed because he has core values.
Paul Ridgeway has always been a good and honorable man and I'm wondering if, out of respect for his clients, he is not telling the entire story as in how many clients still owe him for events.
Keep diggin this is just the tip of the iceburg. There is a multitude of people out here that have been conned lied to and cheated by this man.
Tom Petters and Bernie Madoff both had good reputations too.
I don't know Ridgeway and have no reason to believe he is not a decent, ethical soul. But one detail in the story struck me as curious.
Why would Ridgeway International, with headquarters, business operations and political connections in deeply entrenched in Minnesota, be incorporated in South Dakota? Sioux Falls is not exactly the world capital of big events.
But it is the nation's leading a tax haven for businesses.
There could be more to the story about this Minnesota booster.