My little PR disaster
When yours truly took the original PR Disasters website offline to convert to a Blog, it should’ve taken hours. Months later, here we are. My excuses are not bad, though. Sick, shooting a doco in LA, recuperative holidays and finishing a new business book. Apologies to all those PR disaster watchers everywhere who enjoyed the first site. Now, it’s on with the show again…Here’s a recent piece about PR’s media image.
So thatâ€™s confirmed, then. The modern PR practitioner is a Media Relations fixated, smug, amoral buffoon with an appalling taste in loud shirt/tie combos.
At least thatâ€™s the impression youâ€™d get from watching the ABCâ€™s Australian debut of the imported BBC comedy â€˜Absolute Powerâ€™ which, like its numerous film and TV predecessors, pokes fun at the practice of public relations.
In episode 1, the PR protagonistsâ€™ stock-in-trade was sleazing up attempts to promote and sell the movie rights for a debuting novel (they had the young Irish author dress in a revealing PVC nunâ€™s outfit), and the creation of a fake news VNR (featuring car park fellatio) to save the bacon of a sham, populist historian with more than a passing resemblance to Simon Schama. No Treaty of Athens spirit in evidence whatsoever, Iâ€™m afraid.
But thatâ€™s no real surprise, as celluloid PR types through the ages have been tediously typecast, albeit for comedic or dramatic effect. Letâ€™s face it; PR peeps have been cast as villains from way back! The PRofession is just over 100 years old, but has been depicted as scheming and duplicitous in movies such as â€˜The Sweet Smell of Successâ€™, â€˜Wag The Dogâ€™ and â€˜Phone Boothâ€™.
When not looking shifty or Machiavellian, PR people are portrayed as booze and drug-addled â€˜AbFabâ€™ girls â€“ fashion PR consultant Edina and her editorial sidekick Patsy – gave both sides of the media relations game a really bad name.
Only very recently have we seen a PR pro depicted in a positive light. In â€˜Fun With Dick and Janeâ€™, â€˜Maskâ€™ star Jim Carrey plays a senior VP of Communications who wrenches back some personal dignity and sense of stakeholder justice, by covertly exposing his scheming, Enron-esque employers.
Meanwhile back at the offices of â€˜Absolute Powerâ€™sâ€™ fictitious firm Prentice McCabe, all the usual PR stereotypes are included â€“ chic Soho offices, power lunches at The Connaught and, of course, the usual enmity between bastard publicists and wanker journalists. Having done a decent PR shift myself in Scotland, England and here in Australia, Iâ€™ve rarely encountered these quick-quipping, smart-assed PR caricatures. Truthfully, most of the PRâ€™s Iâ€™ve met have been all too serious, sometimes rather colourless, analytical business types.
As far as TVâ€™s â€˜Absolute Powerâ€™ is concerned, PRâ€™s real life reputation is no laughing matter, which is consistent with how the profession has been depicted in the media for well over half a century.