Aug 31

Try keeping them down on the farm after this

A recent Gallup survey finds most Americans think more highly of farmers than they do public Hollandtown -Holland-Farm -Corn-Harvest_00a relations people.

Now, I'm OK with a tinker, a tailor, a soldier or a spy finishing ahead of a PR executive in these annual rankings, but a farmer? Are you telling me Americans think more highly of someone who has just finished plowing the back 40 than a publicist who knows Hollywood's 40 hottest party spots? Say it ain't so.

The findings actually heartened a few AdWeek readers since advertising and PR rose a few points year-to-year. That's akin to a BP employee pumping his fist in the air because a few less Gulf pelicans died in August than July. C'mon.

I, for one, am a tad disappointed that Americans think more highly of Mr. Green Jeans than they do of Messrs. Burson, Golin and Edelman. How far has PR fallen if American Gothic trumps American Party Planner? (That would be a great name for a new, TV reality show.)

The Gallup findings are just the latest confirmation that our industry's image is being defined by Hollywood. For every 'seat at the table' earned, it seems to me the average American sees us wallowing ever further in the mud. Now, a certain licensing type who posts regularly on Repman, believes an industry's image and reputation really doesn't matter. I couldn't disagree more. Until, and unless, we do a better job of educating Americans about the serious, senior counseling being provided by top public relations officers, the more likely we are to be stuck recruiting talent from the bottom of the gene pool.

It's a serious problem that, for reasons known best to them, remains unaddressed by our various trade journals and industry associations. It's akin to fiddling while Rome burns. Or, in this case, reaping what Hollywood has sown.

Aug 23

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?