I've just finished devouring ‘Who I Am,’ the autobiography of Pete Townshend, legendary lyricist and lead guitarist of The Who.
I highly recommend Townshend's book to PR people for a number of reasons:
1.) It's a great example of authenticity trumping arrogance. Townshend's tome is as brutally frank about his own shortcomings as it is of his fellow bandmates. Sure, he'll talk about Keith Moon's self-abuse, but he's also quick to confess the lifelong impact a sexual predator's actions had on Pete himself.
PR lesson: self-deprecating leaders (and brands) are much more likable and believable.
2.) ‘Who I Am’ is unlike 'Life' by Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, which is one long tirade aimed at 'Keef's' lifelong rival, Sir Mick Jagger. In his missive, Townshend portrays Roger Daltry, The Who's glamorous lead singer, in an objective, even-handed manner.
PR lesson: bashing the competition is a lose-lose proposition.
3.) Madonna, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber may have achieved superstar status, but they've cut-and-pasted their personas from those who came before.
The Who were true pioneers, who had few, if any, role models to show them the way. Sure, Sinatra, Elvis and The Beatles had arrived on the world stage first, but none had been truly outrageous sex, drug and rock-and-roll types. Indeed, The Who perceived the Beatles as little more than talented, pretty boys who did what they were told by manager Brian Epstein.
When it came to acting like wild and crazy guys, The Who had only The Stones to emulate. As a result, and in many instances, everything The Who did was a first-of-its-kind (for better or worse).
PR lesson: there are very few true originals in life, so counsel your CEO to keep his ego in check. He does NOT belong on Fortune's cover.
Beyond the image and reputation lessons, ‘Who I Am’ is chock full of fascinating back stories that explains Townshend's inspiration for writing everything from 'Can't Explain' and 'Baba O'Reilly' to 'Tommy' and 'Quadrophenia.'
There are also the jaw-dropping tales about the group's wide path of destruction and why The Who were permanently banned from The Holiday Inn (that's akin to my receiving a lifetime ban as a PR Week Award judge).
Were there ever a market for my autobiography, I would hope readers would see it as being authentic rather than arrogant. And, when the time came to discuss Ed Moed's role in my life and times, (Ed is Peppercomm's answer to Daltry and Jagger, BTW), I'd like to think my observations would be much more like Pete's than Keith's. But, then again, Who knows?