Sawyer-Miller Group

From Powerbase
Jump to: navigation, search

A PR consultancy based in the US which became the Bozell Sawyer Miller Group later shortened to BSMG Worldwide and in 2002 it became part of Weber Shandwick Worldwide

role in Colombia

Doug Stokes writes:

Opinion polls conducted in 1987 found that 76% of all Americans thought that the Colombian government was corrupt, and 80% wanted sanctions imposed upon it. In 1991, amidst the refusal of the Colombian State to hand over the notorious drug-trafficker, Pablo Escobar, the image of the Colombian State suffered further setbacks. In response to all this, the Colombian state embarked on its own Low Intensity Conflict to win the hearts and minds of the American people. It employed the services of a PR company, the Sawyer/Miller Group, which earned nearly a million dollars in fees and expenses in the first half of 1991 alone. The PR specialists job was to transform the perceptions of the Colombian state as a corrupt and brutal abuser of human rights, to a staunch ally of the US in its so-called “war on drugs”. The director of Sawyer/Miller’s Colombia account explained that "the main mission is to educate the American media about Colombia, get good coverage, and nurture contacts with journalists, columnists, and think tanks. The message is that there are ‘bad’ and ‘good’ people in Colombia and that the government is the good guy." In fostering these perceptions the Sawyer/Miller group conducted opinion poll surveys and focus group sessions to evaluate public opinion. In 1991 alone, Colombia gave over $3.1 million to an advertising campaign. The campaign placed newspaper adds and TV commercials aimed at American policymakers in Washington. The adds all had a similar theme. They asked the American people to remember the bravery of the Colombian military in its war against drugs, and attempted to change perceptions of Colombia from being a drug supplier to the US as drug consumer.
Media requests for interviews with Colombian government officials went through Sawyer/Miller. They steered sympathetic reporters to key government ministries and made sure that critics of Colombia’s appalling human rights record were kept away. In one instance, after a meeting with Warren Hoge, the editor of the New York Times Magazine, the Times printed a long and inaccurate story glorifying the then Colombian President, Cesar Trujillo, whose campaign had been heavily funded with drug money. The Colombian government bought the reprinting rights to the article and sent thousands of copies to US Journalists and Embassies. Sawyer/Miller group regularly use the American press to distribute pro-Colombian government propaganda with the routine production of pamphlets, letters to editors signed by Colombian officials, and ads placed in The New York Times and The Washington Post. However, it is the transformation of the armed protagonists in Colombia’s conflict that has had the most effect. In recently declassified documentation, the US Ambassador to Colombia in 1996, Myle Frechette, admits that the perception of the FARC as narco-guerrillas, “was put together by the Colombian military, who considered it a way to obtain U.S. assistance in the counterinsurgency.” The PR job seems to have worked as the US has now made Colombia the third largest recipient of US military aid in the world today. This aid is allegedly for a counter-offensive against what have been constructed as the primary narco-terrorists in Colombia, the FARC.[1]



  1. ^ Doug Stokes Perception Management and the US Terror War in Colombia, Z Net, June 07, 2002
  2. ^ Ana Arana THE COLOMBIA CONNECTION What Did Sawyer/Miller Do For Its Money?Columbia Journalism Review, September/October 1992
  3. ^ R.S. Zaharna & Juan Cristobal Villalobos A Public Relations Tour of Embassy Row: The Latin Diplomatic Experience, Public Relations Quarterly, 45 (Winter 2000), pp. 33-37.