Not everything’s a lesson in good or bad PR


A few weeks ago, PR Week published an article on Brexit entitled: ‘Leave’ offers a masterclass in effective comms campaigning. After checking to see whether I’d slipped into some kind of parallel dimension, and then almost braining myself by slamming my head into my desk repeatedly, I realised that yes, this was a real article.

Someone actually wrote that a campaign that has proven to be full of lies and scaremongering was an example worthy of emulation by PR agencies and professionals. How can anyone think this?

To imply that the only worthy goal of a PR campaign is to convince people to do whatever you want them to do is perhaps the most cynical thing I’ve ever read – and I run on cynicism (and Diet Coke). Check out Paul Sutton’s brilliant response to the article for a full rundown on how awful the article is.

Oh, but it gets worse…

But yesterday, yesterday I stumbled across another blog post which talked about what we (as PR people) could learn from ISIS. It even described the Paris attacks as “a masterful bit of public relations” as it allowed them to “market and brand their cause and objectives”.

Look, I know that this industry can be pretty self-absorbed at times, but…really?

A quick Google of the phrase “PR lessons from” brings up 20,700 results, such as:

Google “What PR can learn from” and you get what we, as an industry can learn from: Brexit, Trump, Star Wars, The New York Mets and the Hindu God Ganesh.

Now, while I freely admit that the often blunt conflict resolution style of Game of Thrones characters does sometimes appeal to me, the fact is most of these blog posts are outlining the same practices that any decent PR agency should be doing already. They’re just using a sexy clickbait headline and a couple of GIFs – which is fine, and harmless enough.

But using a terrorist attack as an example of “masterful” public relations is plain wrong.

Take away my platinum Prosecco club card if you must, but PR isn’t the source of all human enlightenment. Things don’t exist in this world simply to serve as a lesson in communications and people’s deaths should not be used as a way to convey a PR titbit.

Come on people, we’re supposed to be better than that.


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