Tuesday, March 08, 2005

So Much for PR 

The Atlantic Monthly magazine for March has a dispiriting story titled J-School for Jerks that should be obligatory reading for anyone practicing PR. It makes me ashamed of the business.

The managing director of media relations for a mid-sized public relations firm in Washington, DC, called Qorvis Communications has started a communications course to teach politicians and journalists how to be vitriolic commentators on the air. The guy teaching the course is a regular on so-called political shows where guests assault one another verbally. For those of you who follow such things, these are programs like Hardball, The O'Reilly Factor and Crossfire. The shows make no pretense of discussing issues. They are wrestling with comic book villains and heroes performing mock battles in a ring.

This enterprising fellow who tours these shows regularly apparently feels there could be good money in teaching others how to be nasty. And, so he is.

There are the usual tips like speaking in sound bites, but there are other lessons too such as filibustering to prevent the host or another guest from speaking and dispensing praise in order to disarm an opponent. There is no pretense in any of these lessons of building relationships. It is point scoring, battles mano a mano to defeat your opponent. No wonder Americans don't think much of politicians.

I know, I know. Such gamesmanship is common in other countries such as the UK where "question time" is theater, but Americans don't have the wit to do it well. It is painful to watch ad hominem passing for discussion.

This is not the kind of public relations I signed up to provide my clients. I suppose it is good for Qorvis, if it makes them money, but once again, it reminds the public why PR practitioners are not much above used car salesmen in respect and credibility.

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