PR and The Beijing Dilemna

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[AP: Protesters hang a banner as the official torch relay passes by in the village of Ancient Olympia, southern Greece]

If your clients are involved with the Beijing games, they’ll probably need your counsel now more than ever. After China’s aggressive response to continued protests in Tibet, with surely more to come, the global brands financing the 2008 Summer Games find themselves in an increasingly difficult spot.

Damien Ryan, a Hong Kong-based media relations adviser for Olympic sponsors, told the Washington Post, “What’s at stake is much more than the tens of millions of dollars these sponsors have bet on the Games. It’s their future business with China. Officials here read between the lines, and that’s why sponsors are thinking carefully about their response.”

CNN Beijing Bureau Chief Jaime FlorCruz writes, “In a fierce public relations war, China is fighting back. ‘It’s cranked up its own media machine to tell their side of the story, depicting the Tibetans as perpetrators of senseless violence, blaming the Dalai Lama for instigating the unrest and saying the Chinese security forces responded with restraint,’ said a China analyst in Beijing who requested anonymity.”

One thing’s for sure: sponsoring this year’s games will come with a price, either in dollars, reputation, or both.