For every APCO, there always seems to be a Command PR

(Tip o' RepMan's rock climbing helmet to Julie Farin for this blog idea.)

Kathy Cripps, president of The Council of PR Firms, recently waxed poetic about APCO's Alg_spin_crowd high-profile role in H-P's dismissal of CEO Mark Hurd (a knee jerk reaction based on poor counseling in this blogger's opinion, BTW).

In her blog, Kathy opined that PR no longer needs to aspire to gain a seat at the C-suite table because we already have. I posted a response to the effect, “Well, maybe, some have. But, we still have a long, long way to go.”

PR IS making great strides and, regardless of APCO's questionable counseling, we ARE being invited to attend more and more strategic decision making pow-wows. But, virtually no one knows it.

Thanks to Hollywood, the average American still thinks PR consists of little more than celebrity party planning, intra-office 'Jersey Shore' type dramas and mindless, bubblegum-chewing girls manning the phones.

The latest travesty is being broadcast on E! and is called 'The Spin Crowd.' It follows the exploits of Command PR, its histrionic owner, Jonathan Cheban, and his manic staff. Cheban says his new show is different than its predecessors and depicts PR as: “We're not just sitting there, wearing all black and looking depressed,” he said. “We're a lot more exciting. We're out there working it. We go to the Hamptons. We're in Miami. We're in planes and yachts, and the girls always look gorgeous and fashionable.” Hmmm, that does sound much more like the PR that I know. Ed, for example, rarely wears black. And, the man is “always working it.” Ted, now that I think of it, always seems headed to the Hamptons to counsel some mysterious client. And, me, well I do my best to look gorgeous and fashionable each and every day.

I jest. But, shows like ‘The Spin Crowd’ do real damage to PR's image. This is purely anecdotal to be sure, but I guarantee the average college or university PR major is much more likely to watch ‘The Spin Crowd’ and be sucked in by the drama than they are to scan the pages of The Wall Street Journal and analyze the APCO/H-P story (which, BTW, contains enough accusations of sexual hijinks, financial malfeasances and other good “stuff and things” to grab the attention of even the most ADD-addled 21-year-old).

Our industry leaders can write all the self-congratulatory blogs they like. The fact is, though, that Americans understand LESS about public relations today than ever before. Oh, and by the way, shame on PR Week for naming Kelly Cutrone one of the 25 most influential people in PR. If you aren't part of the solution, PR Week staffers, you're part of the problem. Question: will we see Jonathan Cheban vying with Richard Edelman for the coveted top spot in your 2011 rankings?

10 thoughts on “For every APCO, there always seems to be a Command PR

  1. Michael, please share more about your experiences with Command PR. Dates. People. Places. Things. All of the above. Thanks.

  2. Let us be vilified then. We have clients who care about us, who value our work, who come back every month, quarter, and year, and who recommend us to others. The Commands and Spin Crowds will come and go (mostly go). We have direct, collective experience to prove all points.

  3. Interesting insight, Michael. That said, I could easily see you being the client from hell. RE: your point about other industries not being understood by outsides, perhaps, but, aside from lawyers, used care salesmen and licensing types such as you. I can’t think of a profession that is less understood and more vilified than PR.

  4. Look, Americans understand very little about most industries outside of the ones in which they work. And, every industry has its blue-chip high performers along with its underbelly. Television for example, can be as good as Mad Men or Breaking Bad, and it can be as bad as The Spin Crowd. The best antidote to mediocrity and incompetence is to maintain, and be proud, of your own performance. Sounds idealistic, but it carries more weight among the stakeholders who matter (current and former clients) than we sometimes recognize. I was a client of Command PR. They got no results, did not account for a second of their time, and then blamed me for not providing newsworthy topics. Would you ever want your former client saying that on a public blog? While we deliver high quality work, this season of E! will come and go. And Jonathan will end up with the quality and quantity of clients he so rightly deserves.

  5. Point taken, ghostofprpast. There is no media per se who would report on the many positives of serious PR. That said, I do believe we need to correct the misperception that PR is little more than young girls planning parties. That’s what upset me about PR Week’s naming Kelli Cutrone one of the industry’s 25 most influential people. She may be one of PR’s 25 most infuriating people, but that’s about it.

  6. This idea of “PR for PR” has been floating around since, at least, the halcyon days of my youth when I was interfacing with the likes of Sol & Enrique at Nuway, Cye from Rotocopy and Mabel from Sims-Brecher. (I wish I could remember the preferred messenger company — I want to say Charles from Courier Services?)
    Anyway, here’s the dilemma: Who, exactly, is going to report on the great contributions of PR? I don’t see the news media doing it, since anything of the sort would be tantamount to an admission of how dependent they are on the PR industry and, worse, could rip the veil off the dirty little secret of how much of the news they don’t actually write on their own. To me, it’s akin to writing a positive article on your dope dealer: “He’s always there when I need him and he sells me the best stuff at a reasonable price.” Might be true, but you’d likely never commit it to writing.

  7. I couldn’t agree more, Julie. Instead, we see our lead trade journals providing these faux PR professionals with additional credibility by naming them to a list of the industry’s 25 most influential people. That’s like naming Mel Gibson to a list of Hollywood’s 25 most influential actors. He may belong on the list (but for all the wrong reasons).

  8. You bet, Lauren. While we’d never force an employee to inject collagen in his or her lips, we are very favorably disposed towards Botox treatments. In fact, Ed keeps syringes packed full of the stuff on his credenza. Plus, it’s a don’t ask, don’t tell, policy. We don’t want to know, so go for it if so inclined.

  9. Could not agree with you more… The photo accompanying this blog says it all… They look more like the cast of 90210 than a reputable PR firm…
    And I think Cheban referring to his female colleagues as his “girls” while commenting inappropriately about their looks makes them sound like prostitutes.
    Linda Stasi of the NY Post reviewed this show giving it zero stars:
    I think it’s times like these that the PRSA could show some leadership by using some reputation management skills to defend the PR industry.

  10. Last night’s premiere made me love my job here. Thanks, Steve, for not forcing me to get collagen injected into my lips on my first day of work.