Wednesday, August 25, 2004


One critical communications task of PR is to make issues and ideas clear to target audiences. But, as this story relates again, there are areas that are never clear -- such as economics.

For every economist who says the country is on an uptick, one can find an economist who says the nation is poised on the edge of a downturn. It depends on your beliefs and your politics. No wonder President Harry Truman used to say he wanted one-armed economists.

Even more difficult is that economists are plowers of statistics. Both sides have a deep pile of numbers to prove their views. And, it is likely that both sets of numbers are accurate more or less, for little is precise when one measures trillions of activities that make up a modern economy.

In one sense, lack of clarity is a boon to PR practitioners, because they can cite figures that support a point of view and ignore others. But on the other hand, all that does is obfuscate issues because the other side does the same thing. The public hears contradictory interpretations and is left in a quandary. No wonder individuals fall back to a pocketbook measurement and ask, "Am I doing better or not?" There is more certainty in one's own experience than in averaged experiences of millions. Moreover, in every economy, there are niches that advance or decline faster than averages. In the last few years, the PR business has not recovered as quickly as advertising, for example, and overall PR billings are so small that it is easy to bury the entire field in larger numbers.

Even worse than lack of clarity is seeming agreement that is a mirage. The Internet Bubble at the end of the 1990s was one such fiction that blinded most of the nation and many insiders who bought off on its permanence. When most economists agreed, we were all in the wrong.


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