When Scientists Do PR

3M still doesn’t get it. Yesterday at the Legislature they assured us “perflourochemicals are safe, drink up,” while the Minnesota Health Department (MDH) said “we’re not sure.”

3M loses that argument.

Issues this complicated make most of us Chemistry 101 dropouts want to curl into a fetal position. “You want me to drink perflouro what?” We need a trusted third party to sort it all out for us. And in PR 101 we learned the polluter is never a credible source for deciding whether their pollutants are safe.

I’m sure 3M’s scientists and engineers are assuring 3M’s senior executives that they have won the argument, because they have extremely impressive data sets and are much more qualified than the bureaucratic rubes at MDH. From a scientific standpoint, it’s possible they’re right. But from a public relations standpoint, they’re flat wrong. And they still haven’t figured out that this is a public relations issue as much as it is a science issue.

3M will continue to see its reputation deteriorate until it has a trusted third party, such as the EPA, corroborating its safety claims. Until that time, 3M leaders need to weigh the cost of making bottled water available to neighbors who want it against the cost of losing their sterling reputation.