Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why Do I Do PR?

An answer to a family member who is starting college and is looking at possible careers.

I have been lucky enough to be in PR for more years than I care to discuss. During those years technologies, products, concepts, people and politics have waxed and waned with crushing regularity. Some cycles have been amazingly fast moving, others would put a glacier to shame, but all have moved with a sense of panic, impending doom and gut wrenching immediacy based on what could be lost to whoever could be the winner. The final analysis is that no matter what the product, what the question and who is on the griddle, the PR reaction remains the same. There is a basic, almost generic, quality that infuses all PR activities.

Remember the Japanese peril when they, the shifty Nippon businessmen of yore, were buying up Manhattan? In those days we were all urged to learn Japanese, transfer our allegiance to the Far East and sit back and wait for those ravening hordes to override Pearl Harbor and land in San Francisco. Books were written on Cracking the Japanese Market, well-heeled children were sent to Tokyo on weeklong field trips and memory chips were the symbolic equivalent to the rape of Nanking. Today it's China and India that have become the havens of rampant capitalism, and Japan is just another country with a big-haired Premier.

During Three Mile Island, I was privileged to be working for a Canadian nuclear power consortium. On my desk came the daily stream of requests for interviews, worried calls for debates and an unending succession of information and misinformation. Crisis control is media management at its finest; it's where reality looks bullshit in the eye and tells it to bug off! Because of the intense scrutiny generated by a truly dangerous situation, my advice was always to tell the truth and deny knowledge when knowledge is unavailable. That has never changed no matter what the crisis.

Basics are the hardest to implement today because we are a society obsessed with fine definitions in a meaningless charade of sameness. Case in point, the whole concept of adequate technology has never been addressed because we need to promote the latest technology in the face of mounting costs and increased dependencies. Working in Africa taught me that answers to problems can be jury rigged in a manner that OSHA would never approve, it also taught me that a 386 PC running Windows 98 powered by a car battery is just as efficient and useful as the latest Intel dual core on a laptop with a dead battery. The first is adequate technology, the second superfluous implementation.

So why am I still doing PR? Because by engaging in these areas I realized that somebody has to represent the technologies, the ideas, the products and the ideologies that do not resonate naturally with the great unwashed.  I know that the world is an arena full of rights and wrongs with no clear answers.  That nuclear power can provide enough energy to handle 60% of France‚Äôs electrical requirements and consume 60% or the trees needed to write idiotic statements about it.

Finally, I handle PR because it never ends. I started my career as a reporter photographer and gravitated to advertising. After winning a few awards, doing some artistic and soulful ad campaigns I realized that once the last cut is wrapped, the ads placed, the job is over and it is done. Not so PR, the battles we engage in rage on forever with more facts, better contacts and useful information.

I do PR because it will always be more fun than most anything else I can think of.

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