Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Myth of the Power of PR

We, the flacks, have achieved an almost mythical level of efficiency. In many ways it is merited in a negative manner. Most of the time it is overblown by the public.

We do not move mountains we shift them slowly and with great dignity. Our clients expect that from us and fear the sudden realization that our few words have suddenly changed their world. That love hate relationship we maintain with the press is also fearful of that power because they do not want to be that far out there.

A good journalist knows that his claim to fame lies in shifting the spotlight away from himself and onto the story. many have forgotten that and they become the pundits we all look for. They became that way for two reasons, the clarity of their analysis and the support of our clients. It is a precarious perch they inhabit, constantly shaken by the realities of a world gone nuts.

You may be right because the PR guy put you in the light, but you may just as easily be wrong and believe me, more often that not, the PR guy pointed out that you lack clothing.

And the Beat Goes on.

After some forty years in Public Relations I have developed a nose for PR. Actually I think most older PR people have the same nose because we rarely get too involved in discussions about the content, we do get incensed at the delivery!
Let me explain, during the last election there was so much BS flying around that the meters went off the scales and shut down, only an occasional incredulous reaction was generated from some of the more outrageous or absurd situations. We all have our favorites and mine are probably the same as yours. What we forgot as professionals is that a lot of the dung stuck.

What me and thee shook our heads and whispered incredulously about was taken as gospel truth by a large number of people in spite of Snopes and Fact check. There is a serious lesson to be learned here and that is that nothing is written, spoken or shown that does not continue to resonate in the minds of all of us. A lie once released has a life of its own and the genie cannot be entirely put back in the bottle.

For example, how many of us have heard that Al Gore claims to have invented the Internet, he never said that, but it is still out there in the mindosphere. How about the WMDs that Saddam Hussein posessed, that is still the truth according to 47% of the US population.

My point is simple, if your campaign requires that you venture into troubled waters, calculate the damage your lie will cause and release it as if it was anthrax. It will swirl around and poison not just the people it is aimed at, but sometimes it will come back and poison you too. Is your credibility worth that moment of glory on Fax News?