BELLEVUE—Shepardson Stern + Kaminsky, an advertising and public relations firm headquartered in New York, is dealing with its own public relations problems after accidentally e-mailing journalists and others internal documents from one of its clients, Seattle-based Cell Therapeutics. The firm told reporters the documents were sent out as the result of a computer virus.
The Seattle Times reported Saturday that several reporters had received internal documents that revealed “the candid views of Cell Therapeutics managers and outside analysts on the strengths and weaknesses of the biotechnology company.” The documents cited “skepticism” and “outright cynicism” about the biotech firm and warned that the company’s flagship anti-cancer drug Xyotax, currently in development, “risks being over-hyped and overpromised.”
Within hours of inadvertently sending out the memo, SS+K sent another e-mail warning recipients to delete the earlier one without opening it.
“An email sent from my mailbox earlier today contains a serious virus and should not be opened,” said the message from SS+K employee Susan Pierson Brown. Later, Greg Shaw, a partner at SS+K in Bellevue, issued a statement: “We’ve fallen victim to a computer virus and we believe this raises important legal and ethical questions regarding the use of information obtained through what we believe is the criminal act of a computer virus.”
Cell Therapeutics saw its share price dip dramatically last year after reports that Xyotax was not meeting expectations, and an analyst cited in the SS+K report says he and many of his peers regard the company as “very promotional. The spokespeople, especially the CEO, tend to over- promise and under-deliver with their clinical results.”
“Well-managed companies critically evaluate themselves, both the realities and the perceptions, and use that data to continuously improve,” Candice Douglass, spokeswoman for Cell Therapeutics, told The Seattle Times. “We are bringing forth life-saving treatments for cancer, and as a company our focus and efforts are united to achieve that mission. Our work will continue to speak for itself.”
Shepardson Stern + Kaminsky was founded by Rob Shepardson, Lenny Stern and Mark Kaminsky and offers integrated public relations and advertising services with an approach that draws on the political campaign experience of its principals. The firm has about 65 employees and offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Seattle and Boston.