First Post

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.

Absolute Power
So that’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 that’s the impression you’d get from watching the ABC’s Australian debut of the imported BBC comedy ‘Absolute Power’ which, like its numerous film and TV predecessors, pokes fun at the practice of public relations.

In episode 1, the PR protagonists’ 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 nun’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, I’m afraid.

But that’s no real surprise, as celluloid PR types through the ages have been tediously typecast, albeit for comedic or dramatic effect. Let’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 ‘The Sweet Smell of Success’, ‘Wag The Dog’ and ‘Phone Booth’.

When not looking shifty or Machiavellian, PR people are portrayed as booze and drug-addled ‘AbFab’ girls – 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 ‘Fun With Dick and Jane’, ‘Mask’ 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 ‘Absolute Power’s’ fictitious firm Prentice McCabe, all the usual PR stereotypes are included – 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, I’ve rarely encountered these quick-quipping, smart-assed PR caricatures. Truthfully, most of the PR’s I’ve met have been all too serious, sometimes rather colourless, analytical business types.

As far as TV’s ‘Absolute Power’ is concerned, PR’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.

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