Right, as a journalist you were taught to correct an error and reveal the truth, but as a PR person are you taught that your client is best served to hope the misleading and false just blows away?
PS: Sorry grammatical error above. Should be “blow” away.
Students of public relations are taught to represent their clients’ interests and to make sure their clients’ publics — the groups of people with a stake in the game — are given a voice within the client organization. PR people are a bridge between the client and the public.
I suspect few of these political consultants studied public relations, though.
I’m still fascinated by this subject and the techniques of PR broached on this site way back when, like “blocking”, and I love this one “not answering the phone”. I suppose when being truthful and forthcoming best serve the client that’s the strategy. When obfuscation and misdirection serve the client that’s the strategy. Pragmatism always wins out.
When we hide the truth, the PR terrorists win.
Nearly all of the clients I’ve worked for have had credible, well-considered reasons for doing what they did or said. Relatively few have filed a lawsuit, done a layoff or gone Chapter 11 without some pretty good reasons. Others might not like or agree with those reasons but that’s OK.
I part company with some of my colleagues on the question of what it is we’re paid to do. Nobody has EVER hired me to simply be a conduit for information or to lead a public discussion among stakeholders to find the “one real truth” about a situation. I’m not a public information officer and I’m not a journalist.
Every one of my clients or employers has hired me to be an advocate for a particular point of view or agenda. Because some of that work is zero-sum in nature (elections, lawsuits), some of that work included poking holes in the arguments and agendas of others seeking different outcomes.
Being an effective advocate in my opinion requires you to honestly evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your arguments and positions – and those of your opponents or competitors. Part of the value added by outside counsel in this business is to tell the client “that dog don’t hunt” or whatever colloquialism you like when the arguments or positions are weak. I think a lot of the stereotypes about are industry were created – and continue to be reinforced – by PR people trying to advocate for unsustainable positions or in a vacuum created by their own lack of knowledge about how their client and its agenda relates to the competition, the industry or society at large.
Somewhere in the archives is a saying from Napoleon I used to have on the wall that reminds me of the need to call bullshit even on the people paying your salary:
An officer in the field cannot blame his mistakes in war on his sovereign or his minister, when they are distant from the scene of operation, and must consequently be either ill informed or wholly ignorant of the actual state of things.
Hence, it follows that every officer is culpable who undertakes the execution of a plan which he considers faulty. It is his duty to represent his reasons, to insist upon a change of plan and – in the end — to give in his resignation rather than allow himself to be made the instrument of his army’s ruin.
Works pretty good in PR too.
Somewhat related to the matter of truth-telling in politics:
Have you seen the ad from the Paulsen campaign that starts, “Why is Jim Meffert running a negative campaign?” and then proceeds to “explain” why — in a negative ad? Anyone else find that laughable?
Tom Hauser’s “At Issue” this morning included a “Truth Test” segment shining some light on claims made in an anti-Dayton ad, as it’s done many other ads before and surely more to come. It’s a solid public service, and it even includes an overall letter grade at the end — which is where my complaint starts, in this case.
The segment explains that this particular ad is misleading “with one falsehood.” But the ad is given a grade of C-. But there’s at least one blatant falsehood. Doesn’t that warrant an F? They lied, fer chrissakes!
Oh, come on, Mike–why should grade inflation be confined to classrooms? ;-)
(btw, I agree with you–lying, like plagiarism, should get an “F”)