Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What I would say my first day teaching a class on PR at the local community college were anyone silly enough to let me teach a class on PR (anywhere)

First, I would sit at the front of the class for a long time; reading, taking notes, sometimes paying attention to people walking in, but mostly not.

Then after everyone was sitting impatiently I would get up and say:
First, let me tell you I’ve been fired by more PR agencies than any of you are likely to work for in your entire careers, so I know from whence I speak. Second, I never studied PR, never took any PR classes, and frankly think the idea is absurd.

Good PR people are born good PR people, you don’t make good PR people. Also, let me point out now that I’m full of shit, but I’ll get back to that, it’s going to be a recurring theme of the class.

Good PR people need to be honest, not Boy Scout honest mind you, but honest enough to make people trust you, and if you don't tell them you're full of shit every once in awhile they'll never believe you. I'd never believe anyone who told me they never lied.

If people trust you they’ll forgive you if you neglect or refuse to divulge certain facts. Withholding information is not dishonest, sometimes it’s the very reason you get paid. And let’s face it we’re all doing this because we want to get paid. No little boy or girl dreams of growing up to be a flak.

However, it’s your honesty and integrity that protects the institution you represent. Break those bonds of trust and you’ve not only sullied your good name, you’ve sullied the people that are paying you. What’s more, if the people paying you WANT you to continue withholding information, dissembling or otherwise damaging that trust, both yours and theirs. Then you need to push back.

Look at Scotty McClellan.

Not everyone’s a White House press secretary. True. But it all comes down to personal integrity, if you don’t have your good name you ain’t got bupkus because at the end of the day when you’re a doddering old fool no one’s going to say, wow, he was really great at making money by carefully releasing information. Maybe it’s morbid to think about what other people are going to say about me after I’m dead, but I highly recommend it. Really puts things in perspective.

You may think it’s all about the client. It’s not. It’s always about you. Never forget that. I’m not talking pure selfishness. You need to be principled to protect your clients, too. A good PR person should be the conscience of a company. After all, you’re the spokesperson, you’re the one that has to get up in front of people and spout the party line, it’s your name on the press release, your number on the website. You’d better be able to push back, to have a hand in shaping the story, otherwise you’ll get stuck telling a stupid story.

If people can’t get good information from the guy chartered with disseminating it, people will go elsewhere and then, then...all bets are off. It's very hard to control what other people say, but that boys and girls is just what a good PR person is born to do.

Now, let's take the rest of the day off. Who's buying?

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