Wednesday, February 7, 2007

No such thing as bad PR?

Remember Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management? That's the pamphlet of practical business advice that Raytheon CEO William Swanson and his ghostly editorial minions created a couple of years ago. It became a must-read on the heels of a cover story in Business 2.0 and then, it was revealed that roughly half of Swanson's rules were plagiarized. Scandal ensued, Raytheon was suitably embarrassed, and its Board docked Swanson about $1 million in his next review.

Currency, the business imprint at Doubleday, just sent me a review copy of the 63-year old book that was the actual source of Swanson's wisdom. The Unwritten Laws of Business is a revised edition of W.J. King's The Unwritten Laws of Engineering, a slim volume that has been available for decades to members of The American Society of Mechanical Engineers and anyone else who could be bothered to track it down.

It's a decent book and its basic, simple homilies are not outdated, but the cover copy and the PR accompanying the new edition make the reason it warranted Currency's attention very clear. The front flap opens with the scandal and the headline on rear jacket reads: "The bestselling business classic that Raytheon CEO William H. Swanson made famous." The 14-page press release devotes only a few paragraphs to the book at hand; the rest is a detailed recounting of the plagiarism supported by documentation. Swanson must be thrilled.

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