Monday, September 06, 2004

Brilliant PR 

I've been reading a biography of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. The biography should go far to boost Hamilton's reputation as one of the most important of America's founding fathers, even with his faults.

What struck me is that Hamilton could go down as one of the most brilliant practitioners of public relations in American history and perhaps, in world history as well. He would earn this title solely on the strength of the Federalist Papers, the series of essays he wrote with Madison and Jay to defend the proposed constitution of the United States. Hamilton was a busy lawyer at the time that he penned them. He dashed many off while the newspaper printer waited at his elbow. Today, historians consider the Federalist Papers to be founding documents of American political culture and among the most valuable discussions of political philosophy ever.

Hamilton was an autodidact and a lawyer but he started out as a bold and convincing speaker and essayist on a number of matters, the first being a description of a hurricane and destruction it had wrought. He never lost his gift for persuasiveness and argument, and his positions were informed both by experience and deep study.

It would be nice to think that modern day PR practitioners emulated Hamilton, but I doubt that is true for most. At least in my experience, far too many practitioners wait until they are told what to say and then, they write it into a press release or a speech. They do not think for themselves or do their own research. In fact, they feel it is not their job to suggest to internal or external clients what to say. As a result, they limit themselves and their usefulness.

If you haven't read the Hamilton biography, get it. It can teach you more about PR than any number of public relations texts.


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