There IS such a thing as bad publicity

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ActEthicallyAs a marketing/PR professional who has worked with a number of attorneys, I appreciate the value of various kinds of publicity – including, on occasion, what we call “stunt work.”

But there’s a limit to what common decency and basic good taste can tolerate, and divorce attorney Howard Iken, who is (at this writing) the most recent lawyer to represent George “Stand Your Ground” Zimmerman, exceeded it by a country mile with the video interview of his client that he recently uploaded to YouTube.

Mr. Zimmerman’s pathetic attempt therein to cast himself as a victim and attach responsibility for his pariah status to President Obama was reprehensible enough, but Mr. Iken’s participation, as the video’s apparent producer, director and interviewer, was beyond the pale.

The 22-minute video — dated March 2014 — was tacky. It was sleazy. The few legitimate press and media who chose to cover the story were virtually unanimous in their denunciation of it. Even by the derisory standards of the Internet, it was trashy enough to generate a batch of highly critical comments on YouTube.

The Florida Bar has a 126-page handbook of rules for attorney advertising. While those rules prohibit content that is deceptive, misleading or manipulative, they do not prohibit sleaze or establish criteria for taste and class – but most attorneys know where to draw the line.

Mr. Iken came to the law fairly late in life — at 46 — after 19 years as the owner of a locksmith company. But he went to a respectable law school, and has been practicing for about ten years now, so he should know better.

On the other hand, it’s been reported several times since the date on the video that Mr. Iken’s infamous client is bankrupt and/or homeless, so one may presume that he is unable to pay Mr. Iken’s customary fee. A cynical person therefore might speculate that Mr. Iken publicized the video at this time as a marketing ploy, in hopes that enough new clients would be drawn to him and his firm to offset the loss of revenue resulting from his representation of Mr. Zimmerman.

If anyone ever begged to be exploited, it’s Mr. Zimmerman, who has made a punchline of himself in the three years since he killed Trayvon Martin. But Mr. Iken should respect his present profession and his colleagues enough to conduct himself in a more dignified manner. In that regard, it might be instructive for him to look back at how Mark O’Mara represented his current client in a far more serious matter, under far more difficult circumstances.

Note: Attempts were made to contact Mr. Iken regarding this piece but he did not respond.

Donna Dupuy
Donna Dupuy
Donna Dupuy is a marketing and PR consultant for professional practitioners, service providers, and progressive political entities.

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