Wednesday, November 22, 2006

At The Margins 

If this report is believeable, here is a company that operates on the margins of legality. That raises a question. Who would represent a firm like this for public relations? People do. Hundreds of PR practitioners worked for cigarette companies over the years, even after those companies starting losing lawsuits.

The PR business, of course, is not law in which every client gets representation. It is an elective despite denials from PR executives.

In PR, the reputation of a client transfers to the reputation of the PR practitioner. Practitioners who take marginal clients are considered marginal too. There are practitioners who find it difficult to walk away from money on the table, especially when the remuneration is rich.

I have wondered whether I could take a company like this, but I find the thought difficult. As a sign on my boss' desk says, "business is for a long time." People remember your clients better than you do. On the other hand, taking a client with a message that goes against conventional wisdom is fun and a challenge. And, there can be a fine line between messages that come from out of the mainstream and ethics. It is not always clear when to say no. And, it will never be clear, because the lure of business distorts objectivity. It is a peril of PR.


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