May 4, 2011
I never cease to be amazed at how the words “public relations” are used in strange ways. A recent episode of the British comedy Absolutely Fabulous, (my all-time favorite guilty pleasure) showed PR being referenced as a verb when Eddie tries to explain to her daughter what she does for a living. “I PR things! People, places, concepts..I PR darling”, she says as if that clears up all confusion. She can’t explain it because she doesn’t understand it.
Let’s face it – when someone asks a PR person what they do for a living, half of us want to label the profession as a noun and say “I provide PR services” rather than try to elaborate about branding, messaging, planning and being real. But how real is real?
Case in point: An opposition spokesman to Libya’s Qaddafi described the Colonel’s recent rambling speech as “public relations for the world….We know he’s not being genuine.” Score one for the spokesman who at least understands the importance of authenticity in one’s image. Or does he? In other words, Qaddafi’s penchant for not telling the truth, breaking promises and manipulating ploys are who and what he is. Similarly, look at Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinegad. He’s tyranical, dismissive of the United Nations and repeatedly questions all things Jewish. But he is who he is, and that’s authentic.
On the other hand, music icon Dolly Parton is well known for her heart felt sincerity, yet she is totally reliant on her anything-but-real hair, nails, lips, etc. I guess you could say she’s genuinely fake. Speaking of hair, Donald Trump loves being himself regardless of if or who it offends. I guess you could say he truly annoys, but at least it’s real.
The bigger questions we have to ask ourselves, especially those of us in public relations, include things like:
* Do we understand our role and what we do? * Are we okay with working with clients who don’t understand our industry?
* Can we live with representing a cause or a client who may be genuine, but is also a jerk?
Maybe we should take the lead from Ab Fab’s Eddie, and just use public relations as a verb and say “we PR things”. Then people would nod their heads like they understood our sincerity.
What do you think?