March 02, 2012

On Message

The NYT just ran a straight-faced (and much-forwarded) article on the public relations business's attempt to spin its own message. The PR folks came up with such gems as:
“Public relations is the management function of researching, communicating and collaborating with publics to build mutually beneficial relationships.”
“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
This is fantastic stuff (I chose my words carefully here), but let me try:
"Public relations is managing and manipulating the public perception of your corporate or private paymaster (whoever that may be at the particular time)".
Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.

Public relations is to communication as lawyering is to justice — in each case, something gets lost in translation (something often gets lost in the original…), despite the sometimes heroic efforts of the occasional committed individuals or groups who really do believe and act as though the justice system should be about justice (and not just legality), and public relations should be more than just marketing (and I write as something of a bemused fan of that old Jet Age "communicator" David Ogilvy).

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