NEW YORK—Ernst & Young is looking for a new public relations director after Larry Parnell—recently named public relations professional of the year by PR Week for his efforts to restore the reputation of the accounting industry—accepted a new role, building the first ever public affairs function for the company.
Ken Kerrigan is heading the firm’s seven-person account team on an interim basis, but the firm is searching for an external candidate to fill Parnell’s position.
Parnell says the details of his new role are still being worked out, but “I’m going to be responsible for designing and developing a new public affairs function. The firm and the profession clearly need to attack the issues and misperceptions we are facing, and while the public relations group was going a good job of responding to the day-to-day media questions, we were not really getting at the root of some of these issues.”
The industry has been under attack, both in the media and in the regulatory realm, because of its perceived role in various fraudulent business practices at companies such as Enron, WorldCom and Tyco.
The remaining Big Four accounting firms—PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, Deloitte & Touche, and Ernst & Young—recently retained Public Strategies, an Austin-based public affairs firm, to handle image building in Washington, but Parnell says Ernst & Young needs its own public affairs presence in the nation’s capital.
“In the past, we have relied entirely on our lobbying activity in Washington,” he says. “This will be a broader effort, addressing the public and the media as well as the Hill.”
Parnell, who is working out of the firm’s Stamford office, says he has already conducted some best practices research in conjunction with Hill & Knowlton, one of E&Y’s lead public relations firms, and expects the new function to be up and running later this year.