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Want to polish your image, Todd? Just do a good job.

Friday, April 25, 2008
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, if you're feeling you get a bum rap from the media, here's a little advice that might help:

When you demand that your underlings sign a confidentiality agreement, forcing them to promise they will never, ever talk to the media about anything they may have "learned, disclosed or observed" while on the job, for as long as they shall live, guess what's going to happen? Someone is going to leak that confidentiality agreement to the media.

How embarrassing.

In this case, Mr. President, the document quickly fell into the hands of Chicago Sun-Times reporter Steve Patterson, who broke the story Thursday about your latest silly move .

Granted, our advice is obvious stuff -- everybody knows folks will blab, like it or not -- but it apparently wasn't obvious enough to any of the 15 public relations specialists on the county's payroll, a crowd that collectively costs taxpayers more than $1 million a year.

And here, free of charge, are three more nuggets of public relations advice.

First, getting good press has nothing to do with hiring a new PR maven, chatting up a high-priced consultant or staying "on message." Just do good work. A fine job speaks for itself.

Second, your top county employees don't owe their first loyalty to you, as the confidentiality agreement would suggest you believe. Their loyalty is to the people who really pay their salaries: the taxpayers. When you prohibit employees from uttering a word to the public about what's really going on, you make Cook County look like Beijing.

Third, you're not Oprah. Like you, Oprah Winfrey demands that her employees sign a confidentiality agreement. But Oprah's running a private company, one she single-handedly built, not a government. She spends her money, not ours.

President Stroger, you vowed during your campaign to make Cook County government more open and transparent.

Give it a shot.

All you've got to lose is a bad image.

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