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Hagar_PR001.jpgIt’s no secret that PR has an image problem. And today’s Hagar the Horrible cartoon sums it up very well. Here’s Hagar, tied to the stake and about to be killed by multiple enemies. And the boorish Hun’s PR man is trying to convince them that Hagar is a nice guy who loves children and animals.
Kinda like Edelman and Wal-Mart. Or Edelman and Microsoft. And not to pick only on Edelman, it’s like a lot of PR agencies and assorted freelance flacks who defend slimeball clients.
The media has always made fun of publicists. Because if you go back to the early days of press agentry, a lot of slippery flacks tried to dupe the public. The exalted father of PR, Edward Bernays, made cigarette smoking fashionable for women, and was also responsible for a lot of other socially unconscious campaigns.
Look at PR in film:
Tony Curtis as the sleazy press agent Sydney Falco in “The Sweet Smell of Success”. He planted drugs on a rising star jazz musician to make a story for a powerful journo played by Burt Lancaster.
And then there was Robert DeNiro’s Conrad Brean in “Wag the Dog,” who manufactures a fake international war to divert attention from the president’s infidelity.
And that’s just how the media treats men. Who could forget the drunken bimbo publicist Edina Moonsoon on Absolutey Fabulous. Or Kim Cattrall’s horny PR princess on “Sex in the City.”
Sadly, PR’s image problem is caused by PR people. If there weren’t still people from Ari Fleischer who blithely lied for the Bush PR machine, to Hill & Knowlton’s M.A. Shute who orchestrated Enron’s PR, to the young publicists who don’t question the assignments they’re handed even when they know they are unethical, there is a great shortage of balls in the PR industry.
Before PR people send me hate emails, read this:
Sure there are a lot of hard-working, honest, ethical PR people. But they are out-shouted by those willing to sell their souls, and that’s just a damn shame because PR can play a very valuable role in business growth.
Long-term, sleazeball flackery won’t solve anyone’s problems. But it does make for a funny cartoon here and there.