Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Price of a Poor Defense 

When my colleague sent me the news story that the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Arthur Andersen, the former accounting firm, for document destruction, it struck me again how unfair the government can be. Federal prosecutors wanted heads to pay for the Enron affair. They got a conviction -- unjustly.

The conviction destroyed the firm and its legacy that, despite errors, was a proud one. No company should have to pay with its life for something it did not legally do, but Arthur Andersen did. If there was ever justification for a strong communications program, this case is it. Andersen allowed itself to be boxed. It should have fought like hell and made its case to the public repeatedly.

We know from experience that when companies fight, they stand a better chance than those that don't. The older I get, the more I believe that settling cases and giving in too easily is not the thing to do. CEOs should stand and be counted when they believe they are in the right. They owe it to the thousands of people who depend on them.

Andersen was upheld, but it's dead. What good is that?

Monday, May 30, 2005


Here is one more reason to stick to facts. It seems that we all lie all of the time. So, skip the notion of telling the truth and hew to collecting and delivering facts. At least we can be partly right.

Stupid Publicity Trick 

Even if you are a former movie star and governor, you aren't free from criticism for trying to pull off a stupid publicity trick. If this San Francisco Chronicle story is to be believed, it was dumb. That's the peril of media events. The media know photo-ops are put-up jobs, and they are not above reporting them that way. The governor would have done better if he had found a real crew working on real potholes and called an impromptu meeting. He wouldn't have gotten everyone there, but at least he would have made his point honestly.

In Memoriam 

I'm a veteran of the U.S. Army, so that might qualify me to talk about Memorial Day -- at least a bit. I have wondered for years why we have the dead. There are just wars, but too many are inexcusable wars. The nadir of insane and unjustified conflict was World War I where millions of men died for no good reason. And, worst of all, nothing was concluded except the preamble for yet another war.

There are evil men who must be deposed for the good of mankind, but it is possible to stopper dictators inside their borders as we did with the Soviet Union, with Cuba and with North Korea. By leaving them to their own devices, they rot within. Regrettably with the proliferation of nuclear warheads and cheap missiles, it is less possible to bottle a country.

So we must have armies, and they must be prepared to fight and in fighting, people die. It is a sad that after millennia, the human race hasn't figured out how to get along without mass killing. Yet, it is increasingly important to go to war slowly and to justify clearly the necessity. Iraq, we know now, was a mistake and a bitter lesson of how little we understand an enemy's intentions. I hope we remember that the next time as we honor the dead today.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

What We Face 


Ironic But True 


Back to the Future - 2 

This story is another case of an old technique modernized with a new name. I was doing video journalism in the 1970s as a young TV reporter. We called it a "one-man band" back then. We did it not only because it was cheaper but because the station where I worked believed a journalist should have total control over his work. We reported, shot footage, filmed interviews, recorded voice-overs, cut and spliced film and ran it to the film chain just before the newscast was about to air. It was tough to do then because equipment was bulky and there were lots of things that one carried about the waist on BIG belts. Today, everything is in a little camera.

What is the virtue of video journalism? One learns the entire process. That is what I remember best of all. I left that job with the confidence that I could do anything in a newsroom because I had done just about all of it.

PR needs training like that. No practitioner should go through a career without learning every technique associated with the job. There should be confidence in skills that goes beyond writing and media placement because one never knows what one will have to do in this business.

Back to the Future 

This story is interesting because it relates how an old technique has been modernized with computers. The technique is previsualization of scenes and shots in a film. Previsualization began with the cartoon industry back in the 1930s. In fact, Walt Disney pioneered many of its techniques when he made his first feature length cartoons. It was adapted reluctantly into dramatic filmmaking, and most directors wouldn't use it because it smacked too much of control.

Previsualization also was used in still photography. Ansel Adams stated that every photo should be previsualized before one snapped a shutter. That meant one knew how one was going to develop the film and print it and what the final picture would look like in black and white.

Previsualization is a technique that I have used frequently in PR when doing events, for example. It is a good technique to know: It saves time and money.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Web-Centric Communications Structure 

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was puzzling over the structure of communications departments in an environment where the web is the primary communications vehicle.

This article is the result of that.

There is much to think about in changing the layout and reporting structure of an organization when the web becomes the primary medium. One should return to first principles of communications and economics and work back to an appropriate structure.

This article is a first attempt. It is by no means perfect, but if it starts a discussion, I will be happy. It seems to me that efficiency, if nothing else, will dictate changes. There are too many uncoordinated media and messages in use at most corporations today. The web's integrated and interactive power can change that fundamentally.

Although I don't mention blogging in the article, you may be sure that it is part of the editorial operations described at the end of the article.

I would especially like to hear from anyone who disagrees with the thinking in this paper and can offer a better solution. It would help PR to find solutions before developing new structures becomes an imperative.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Saving Clients From Themselves 

This is a topic about which I have written before, but it is worth bringing up again. What do you do when you see a client, internal or external, about to make a dumb move? Do you jump in and tell them to stop? Do you go along and try to stay out of harm's way? Do you document your innocence to avoid the future fallout? Do you go over the client's head to a higher authority?

Actually, you might do all of these things depending on circumstances. And, they might work -- or not. There is no answer for clients who have death wishes and don't know it. Over the years, just about everyone has fought and found they often made matters worse. Others have tried to go along in the hope that the outcome wouldn't be too bad. When it was, they were caught like the client and blamed for failing to provide good counsel. Those who document their innocence and counsel have learned that sometimes it doesn't mean anything when higher powers are thirsting for blood. (I can tell a personally painful story about this.) And, going over a direct contact's head can have an ugly fallout, if the contact figures out what you have done.

So what do you do? It seems the most important step is to read the situation first, to determine who the players are, their positions and their power. If you can do that, it will tell you how to approach the task. And, even though I know documenting can be fruitless, I do it anyway. There is no telling what the outcome might be of a truly dumb move, and you don't want to be trying to remember what you said or did in a deposition.

So can clients be saved from themselves? Some can and some can't. But, as an old PR mentor used to say to me, "Live to fight another day." He was a World War II veteran who had fought under Patton and had been wounded in France. He knew what he was talking about.

Monday, May 23, 2005


In the last day, I had the occasion to visit a municipal court and the symbolism of the place struck me. It was traditional in design with oak paneling, benches for spectators and an elevated dais for the judge. Attorneys sat in front waiting for their cases to come up. They were the only ones in suits. The rest of the populace was overwhelmingly African-American and modestly dressed -- some in T-shirts, many in jeans. The first thing that struck me was the town involved is only 40 percent African-American. Why weren't there more white faces? No answer for that. The court clerk called for all to rise as the judge entered, and everyone did. A symbol of respect for the law held throughout the room.

The judged himself was a fellow with a white Van Dyke beard and bald head, symbols too of authority, who liked to hear himself talk. He spoke clearly and simply about court procedures and personal rights in a way that even a semi-literate person could understand. It was a credible performance. As he disposed of cases, he asked each person whether the individual understood the violations of the traffic code, whether the person understood the fine, whether the person was pleading guilty and sometimes, an added question or two about the case. Only one individual for whom English was a second language had difficulty understanding his queries. He dismissed her to the laughter of the spectators and noted that the question didn't matter anyway. The care with which he asked each question and rendered his opinion were symbols too of his respect for legal procedure and for rights. I was impressed.

I have never spent much time around courts but they are powerful communications media that, perhaps, should be examined more closely by PR practitioners for what they can teach. It was an interesting experience and an affecting one, but I don't think I will attend again any time soon -- if I can help it.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

They've Learned Too Well 

Governments can learn from the commercial world. Unfortunately, there are times when they shouldn't. Marketing agencies use stealth marketing in chatrooms these days. Marketers dip in and out of chatroom conversations, emulate members and slyly push products and services.

Unfortunately, the Chinese are doing the same thing to defend their government.

Chinese leadership has been uncomfortable with the internet from the beginning. It threatens stability. It provides an avenue for communications among those who would bring down the government. China for most of the 20th Century was a war-zone, then it was wrecked again by The Cultural Revolution. The country was torn apart or tore itself apart repeatedly. Millions died.

Today, China's leadership wants stability, and it is betting it will get peace through prosperity and controlled communications. Many think the leaders are wrong, but it is understandable why they think the way they do. So, they use Western techniques of guerilla marketing.

I wish I could feel comfortable about such manipulation, but I'm not. I don't think the commercial world should be using the techniques either. But, I admire a country that is skilled enough to adapt new techniques to advantage. And, I fear it too.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


This story has a lesson for PR, but unfortunately, it doesn't come from a PR agency. An ad agency wanted to learn how to do viral communications, so it took a known event and spun a few - um - theories about it around a fictional student doing his PhD. The event was the legendary Tiger Woods golf shot that somehow got into the hole when there was no way for it to do so. The site they dedicated to the theories is here. All are preposterous, and some are hilarious.

The real lesson is that the agency was willing to take the time to try something new. I have called for many years for systematic experimentation with new techniques and technologies. The resistance to this idea has always been high. No one has the "time." My answer to that has always been that one should take time because there will be an hour soon enough when one can use the knowledge. And, there will be a day when one is left behind for not keeping up.

There is another issue as well that has come up time and again. No one sees any use for a new technology or technique until they learn it. Then, suddenly, uses show up all over the place. It is only through systematic experimentation that one finds new ways to do old processes or new techniques. Your value goes up the more you know.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Why Newspapers Are Afraid of the Future 


PR Problem, Part 2 

Two days ago, I wrote about the problem of anonymous bloggers. That is just part of the headache facing corporate communicators trying to defend companies. This wonderful invention for the US Navy is going to make anonymous e-mail a hazard. I know that the Electronic Freedom Foundation finds it wonderful, but there are limits to privacy, especially when someone uses it for evil actions. What happens when someone starts sending personal threats to individuals or bomb threats unless a company pays a few million bucks for the bomber to go away? There appears to be some thinking about this, but not enough.

It is nice to be romantic about people and their essential goodness, but it doesn't take long in news or PR to realize that there are individuals with bad intentions, and they are many.

I wish everyone luck on developing this system, but I can hear the complaints now.

On Writing 

I spent time last night with a journalist-author who has odd interests -- sports and history. He writes columns and books about baseball and football but also has a successful book on Wyatt Earp. When I asked how he shifts between the Old West and Yogi Berra, he shrugged. He said he had two pieces of writing advice in his life -- one good and one bad. The bad advice, he said, came from a teacher who said one should write about what one knows. The good advice came from a teacher who said if one wanted to make a living, write about what one doesn't know anything about. As a professional writer, he has spent a career tackling subjects he doesn't know much about at first.

This, of course, is an excellent description of what PR practitioners do daily, especially in the agency business. We're paid to learn, as a mentor in the business used to say. Actually, he said it a bit differently. His full statement was, "I love this business. Where else do you have clients who pay you to learn?" I agreed with him then and now.

Yesterday, a colleague and I spent time with a potential new client discussing a challenge that has enough elements to give one a headache. We don't know the details of the entire case, but the exciting part is that, if engaged, we will be paid to pick apart the problem, then develop a practical communications solution for it. What could be more fun?

I am at a loss whenever I meet PR practitioners who show little interest in topics beyond a narrow area, or who really don't want to know about a client's business. I ask myself why they are in PR. I haven't found an answer to that question yet. I'm still learning.

Monday, May 16, 2005

PR Problem 

There are a growing number of incidents in which employees and students use anonymous blogs to criticize and mock administrations, fellow employees and others. This story is one example of the trend.

The wonderful medium of the blog is increasingly a PR problem more than a PR opportunity. Anonymous blogs are a dangerous problem depending on how much they air the internal dirty laundry of an organization. It doesn't take much to make a blog anonymous. Posting can be done to other blogs where one's name stays out of the public and tracing is well-nigh impossible.

Before we get too excited and go on about the wonders of blogs, we should remember that every medium has two sides -- one for good and one for ill. Both develop at roughly the same pace.

There needs to be more discussion in PR about how to defend oneself against blogs.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Return to the Past? 

I mentioned a few days ago I was getting around to reading Dick Martin's excellent analysis of the fall of AT&T, Tough Calls. I've finished it, and if anything, it is better than I expected. It should be required reading in every PR course, PR agency and PR department. Hell, it should be required reading for CEOs.

Interestingly, the key chapter for me is the last one where Martin puts his finger on failures that wrecked AT&T's brand. The first was concern for stock price over the obligation to provide the best products and service. Second, he faults the decline of PR to media relations rather than a way of thinking and operating that builds credibility with publics. (Martin upholds the principles of Arthur W. Page, the first great PR man of AT&T who, incidentally, did not come out of PR.)

I agree with Martin on both criticisms for both have bothered me for some time.

But, and this is a big but, it seems to me PR is no longer the body of beliefs or practice that Page defined and that AT&T fostered. The loss of AT&T paralleled the loss of meaning to PR beyond a media technique. That is why it has been subjugated below marketing in many instances. What Martin appears to be wishing for is a return to the past when PR did have more meaning. Sadly, it doesn't appear that will happen. There are other arms in the corporation now that have taken the place of what PR used to do. For example, Sarbanes Oxley has fostered compliance groups whose job it is to establish ethical principles throughout an organization. Compliance groups have a sledgehammer -- jail time and fines. PR has nothing beyond simple persuasion -- the tool it has used all along.

In an era of institutional investors and demand for a high stock price, Page-style PR is not a consideration. That is why Martin on p. 261 could cite a PR counselor who said the object of the job was to ensure that the CEO "could read the Wall Street Journal at breakfast without developing indigestion."

There are companies that practice "old-fashioned" Page-style PR. I'm proud to say at least one is a client. But they are a minority, and they don't necessarily call what they do PR. I'm afraid Martin's desire to return to the past isn't going to happen -- not for PR anyway. It will happen for other communications and business disciplines that take up principles PR once espoused.

For those still practicing PR according to Page principles, which, I hope, includes me, we feel like dinosaurs shuffling to extinction. The world we live in is less ethical, less concerned about credibility and obsessed with selling rather than service. Perhaps, it is time to say goodbye to a wonderful past and accept a perilous and compromised future.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


I like tackling projects where the task is to refute another's contentions. This happened a couple of days ago.

A client asked us to compose an outline of a proof that overturns conventional wisdom on a particular topic. This is a fun assignment because one gets to turn tables, if the argument comes out right.

The first step to getting this done is to line up objections. Criticisms help one think more clearly, but they also outline the dimensions of the argument. Begin a refutation with the list of all the reasons against your position. Then, choose a central theme around which to build defenses. That isn't always easy to do. I chose the wrong theme, but a correct one emerged as I wrote. In fact, a colleague pointed out that the real theme was buried, and I needed to move it to the head of the outline. He was right.

When you are done with this kind of writing, leave it for awhile. I left it overnight. The next morning I numbered objections and checked each part of the proof to make sure I had dealt with every objection. I hadn't. There were six objections in all, and only the sixth was irrefutable. There isn't data to contradict it. Unfortunately, this led to "kludge" argument. It's weak and everyone knows it, but it still appears to counter.

I'm happy to say the client accepted the outlined argument and is writing a final text from it.

I was never a debater, but I should have been. It helps to know forms of argumentation instinctively. This is one area of writing where lawyers should outshine PR practitioners.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


This exit interview with Daniel Okrent, the departing Public Editor of The New York Times, should be mandatory reading. The dirt is interesting, but the key to the interview comes after the question, "What are the hardest aspects of the job?" Okrent's response is below:

The hardest one is sorting out self-interests. A person who’s been written about and complains, “I was treated unfairly, and here’s why” obviously cannot see the situation objectively. Similarly, the reporter or the editors who handle the story don’t, because they have an automatic self-interest as well. There are very few things in the world, or at least in the world of journalism, that are purely black or white. It’s hard to conclude that something was fair or unfair, that special pleading isn’t manifesting itself. That, from day one of my tenure, has been the hardest thing.

I'm not sure whether Okrent has reflected on this, but what he gave was a justification for Public Relations. We're paid to defend a client's interest in environments where it is hard to determine truth. Where there is doubt, we defend a client's side of an issue vigorously. When there is clear error, we counsel a client in how to correct a mistake in order to preserve public trust.

We are called spinmeisters but we aren't, if we do our jobs well. As Okrent says, it is the hard to know whether something was fair or unfair. But we strive for fairness toward clients, especially when there is a howling mob that would prefer to lynch them. Then, we hope that eventually the truth will come out, and our clients are both in the right and still in business.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Publicizing Folly 

Five hurricanes struck the US last year and caused billions of dollars of damage. So what are householders in Florida and other Gulf coast states doing about it? Nothing. That is why Florida's Lt. Governor held a news conference to publicize a poll that revealed the lack of action.

It is an interesting brand of PR that highlights the stupidity of man, but it is necessary. No one needs damage again like the last hurricanes left. But, householders beg for it if they take no precautions.

What is it about people that they continue to take unacceptable risks with little thought of their actions. There are well documented examples of folly throughout the US, including building in flood zones (a real problem in New Jersey), building in high-fire zones (California) and building in hurricane zones close to the shore (The entire East and Gulf Coasts).

The worst part is that every year there is a disaster of some kind and for the most part, people return and build again.

What kind of PR would it take to convince the American public that this is folly? I think it is beyond persuasion for many. The government should step in and bar people from building in dangerous areas. It is a measure of the corruption of local government that developers are allowed to proceed again and again.

It would be an interesting PR campaign.


The last few weeks I've been noodling a question that may or may not be a problem. It is this. Should companies restructure communications departments around the Web and if so, how?

What I mean is who reports to whom in the organization and how is reporting related to the CEO and the senior level? Today, communications structure in most corporations I know appears to be audience structured. Communications departments are placed closest to audiences they serve. Should it be this way when the most efficient medium in reaching all audiences is the Web? I don't have an answer, and I don't know if there is an answer. I'm not sure it is even a question that needs to be asked.

The reason I'm asking it is that it makes a difference where communications departments are placed. The difference comes in access and power to get things done. A communications department reporting directly to a CEO has more flexibility and reach. A communications department reporting to a Chief Marketing Officer will lean toward marketing and sales. A communications department reporting to HR will have internal more than external concerns. Communications reporting to the General Counsel will be more protective.

Every company because of its place in the market, predilection of management and needs has a different demand for marketing PR, corporate PR, IR and internal communications. But, today, all messages end up on the Web, mostly in the same place. Therefore, should all departments today be in a Web department and should the Web department report to (fill in the blank)?

I'll let you know if and when I figure this out.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Bitter Lessons 

I spent a large part of the weekend preparing a database of names to produce nearly 300 merge letters tailored by name and address. The database needed extensive corrections, and it took me about six hours on Saturday to get them done.

I don't find databases all that difficult to build but Bitter Lesson no. 1. There is no easy way to correct a database of names. One must slog through and work down errors bit by bit. With hundreds of names, this is possible in a day or so. With thousands of names, it isn't. The hardest part is doing data entry when one's fingers no longer work well after hours of typing. Suddenly your fingers are spastic, and there are still 50 entries to code. Not a great feeling.

Bitter Lesson no. 2 came with preparation of the merge letter. Suddenly, I got a call and was informed that the group I was working with wanted to change it -- this in spite of having the letter more than a week. I pointed out to the group that we have a deadline, and if I didn't work this weekend, the letters wouldn't get done. I was not happy. But a few hours later, this was resolved, and I moved forward. Get everyone to sign off on a merge letter EARLY, then DON'T let them change it.

Bitter Lesson no. 3. Mistakes multiply. With merge letters, any error is multiplied hundreds of times. Check and recheck text. Think of every way copy can be misconstrued. Look for dropped commas and semicolons. Decide whether all Mr and Mrs are with periods after the names or not. DON'T trust your own eyes. Have someone else look at the copy too. My wife was the long-suffering editor for this project.

Bitter Lesson no. 4 was my fault. ALWAYS have extra printer cartridges on hand when starting to print merge letters. I finished the first run of 60 letters and discovered to my horror that the last eight were faded, and the cartridge had run out of ink. I didn't have a spare on hand, so I drove quickly to Staples where I was informed that it is a special-order cartridge, and it would take one to four business days to get it. Frantic, I drove up the street to the computer store where I had purchased the printer in a faint hope that it might, just might, have a cartridge that I could borrow, or even, one for sale. An elderly salesperson looked about the store a bit and checked the inventory to discover that the store was supposed to have three cartridges. Luckily, we found one, and I raced home.

Bitter Lesson no. 5. Sometimes merges don't work properly even with the latest editions of Microsoft Access, Word and Excel. (It was Word, Access and Excel I was using.) For some damn reason, when Access exports data to Excel, quirky things can happen. I use Excel as the datasheet from which to perform the final merge in Word. This time Excel or Access (I don't know which) cut off two digits of the zip code. I couldn't figure out why, and I didn't have time to explore, so I deleted the zip code from the address block of the letter. One notices the absence but not much.

I got done -- finally, and the letters are packed to go to the group. But, a weekend has passed, and I don't remember what I did but mow lawns and work on merge letters.

Now, if someone wants to make a change on Monday...

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Thank You 

My friend and fellow blogger, Peter Shinbach has done a wonderful favor. He sent me a copy of a book that has been called one of the best books on PR in recent years. It is the tale of AT&T's fall as told by insider PR man, Dick Martin. Its name, "Tough Calls." I'm sure that many of you have read it. I had it on my list since it appeared last November but I hadn't got to it yet. It now goes on top of my reading pile.

Interestingly, the author lives only two communities away from me. I hope someday to meet him and to thank him for a wonderful history.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Ugly Truth 

This story reveals one of the ugly truths of business. Leaders who initiate change may not get the benefit of it. They're dumped before the change goes into effect. That is apparently what happened in HP's server business, which is in the process of a turnaround.

This is a reminder that no PR practitioner needs: There is no fairness in life. Perception rules, and the new CEO will get the credit for the turnaround if it is successful.

Old Trick Made New 

Years ago when Regis McKenna founded high-tech PR in the fledgling personal computer business of Silicon Valley, he said successful product launches depended on reaching the key influentials in any market. He was right too.

Microsoft has updated McKenna's old technique with its squad of bloggers to preview Longhorn, the new operating system. The more things change in PR, the more they stay the same.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


To understand the gullibility of man, visit Snopes regularly. It is a wonderful repository of urban legend and fiction passed off as fact. But, more importantly, it is an object lesson for PR practitioners of the kinds of rumors and innuendo that can victimize any company at any time. Snopes says it best in the business section of the site:

Businesses are the classic whipping-boys of urban legendry, and the bigger they are, the more they get whipped. Seems like they can't do anything right — they're run by people who abuse their customers, cheat the public, commit astounding marketing blunders, mistranslate their own advertisements, and donate money to organizations of dubious repute.

This is worth remembering, especially if you are in a large firm. Snopes is a wonderful resource that every PR department should consult. If you don't have it in your favorites, put it there.

Off The Back Of The Truck 

What a heck of a way to suffer a PR disaster -- losing computer tapes of 600,000 employees' information off the back of a truck. But that's what happened to Time Warner, as was widely reported.

This incident is an embarrassing reminder that stupid things happen even to careful companies. It is the kind of incident that leaves a CEO spluttering with frustration and with not much to say. Of course, Time Warner is apologizing and trying to find the missing tapes. Part of the story that didn't help the company was that it waited for an entire month before telling its workers what had happened. I'm sure more than a few feel that the company has broken faith by keeping this secret for so long.

What do you want to bet that the tapes were misdelivered somewhere and are sitting in a warehouse unclaimed? It makes no difference. Time Warner won't live this down for a long time.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Perfect PR Person? 

I don't know about you, but this person would be terrific in PR. She understands context and perception and how to change it.

Perfect PR Person? 

I don't know about you, but this person would be terrific in PR. She understands context and perception and how to change it.

Cross Cultural 

This story is an example of why PR should never ignore cross-cultural misunderstandings. The fact that it focuses on differences between US and German reporters is interesting, but there are stronger examples of misunderstandings on record. Take, for example, the US Army's absolution of US troops in the death of the Italian agent a couple of months ago. It is my understanding that Italian journalists are livid, while US reporters appear to be calmer in reporting the investigation of the incident. Truth has been lost in perception.

It is on these kinds of occasions that good PR advice is invaluable.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Struggling with Material 

I believe every PR practitioner should practice a craft other than writing and communications. I believe that for the same reason MBA schools have learned their students aren't prepared when they get only academic learning.

There is a long way between theory and practice and between words and deeds. That is why I continue to struggle with carpentry. In recent weeks, I built a replacement headboard for my daughter's bed and a finger-jointed box. Neither are hard tasks for anyone who knows what he or she is doing. But, for someone who works occasionally on weekends, they were daunting. The real problem is more than a deficiency in skills. It is a problem with material itself. Wood is a living product with variations that came from growing in a particular environment. Even after wood is cut, planed and dried, it continues to move with humidity, heat and cold. To take "living material" and to craft it into an object requires knowledge that most college students don't have and never get. It is easy to write about furniture building: It is damn hard to do.

PR would have more authority as a business, if its practitioners all had more experience with businesses they represent. For example, a fashion PR practitioner would have to make a dress every year. A tech writer would have to code. A medical writer would have to work in a clinic. Not only would we understand better, we would have more credibility with clients.

This is part of the reason, by the way, that companies like McDonald's Corporation requires its CEO and other top officers to work in a restaurant one day a year. Counter duty reminds them what business is about at the bottom.

I wonder what would happen if one requirement for PRSA's APR included regular work in the field one represents.

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