President of PR firm hired by City of Ferguson ‘dismayed’ by online reaction

Denise Bentele of Common Ground PR says a lack of diversity is ‘an industry-wide challenge that we all need to tackle.’

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Clashes between the mostly white police force and people protesting the police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, an African-American man, have had a racial charge to them. That led Talking Points Memo and others to question why the city had hired a PR firm that appears to have no black people working in it.

Wednesday afternoon, the president and CEO of Common Ground, Denise Bentele, issued a statement addressing those concerns and answering why the firm stepped up.

“Our short-term agreement to assist had nothing to do with the preceding tragic events,” Bentele wrote. “Rather, as we watched the news of ongoing turmoil, it was apparent that the negative images could forever impact our region’s economic development efforts and the lives of our neighbors.”

Bentele said she was “dismayed at the negative reaction online and on social media” over her firm’s hiring and the criticism from communications professionals and others over the racial makeup of Common Ground’s staff.

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