Posted by Amanda Chapel
By way of introduction, as you know, we in public relations puff things up so as to influence other people's decisions. One may spin variations of that ad infinitum but that's pretty much the definition in a nutshell. When it's a product, it's certainly the "cure for cancer;" when it's a service (intangible) we have for you "one of the world's leading experts." Here we focus on the latter.
Pope slows production at the 'saint factory'
In what is being viewed by some as a major departure in policy, one of the world's largest PR organizations, the Catholic Church, today announced that they were cutting way back on canonizations.
In a document made public yesterday, several days after the Pope had informed the Congregation for the Cause of Saints (the Vatican's saint makers), Benedict XVI stressed the need for strict definitions in deciding who should be elevated to saint.
Note: as a "means of communications." John Paul seemed unconcerned about various requirements. Apparently, the late Pope was the consummate PR guy. He was a CEO who knew sales promotion.
But the new Pope is tightening the rains. It's gotten out of hand. If everyone can be a saint, well hell! What's the point of going to heaven if you cannot pull rank and the Club is strewn with riffraff. At least during the Renaissance, when you could buy sainthood, there was some sense of discrimination. Anyway, the party's over. The new Pope has emphasized that "the process of beatification and canonization cannot be initiated in the absence of a verified reputation for sanctity, even if one is dealing with people who have distinguished themselves by their evangelical lucidity or by special ecclesiastical and social merits". Translation: Frankly, you had better have a few verifiable miracles or forgetaboutit.
Similarly, thanks to the "PR saint factory," business and society in general are overpopulated with "experts" today. Lunch Bucket Fred is not your plumber anymore, he's president of Acme Faucet and Sink and Accredited Fellow of the Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering, and one of the world's leading experts in "drainage."
I think it started in the late 80s. Somebody at a Big 8 accounting firm was totally frustrated at the infrequent turnover of the audit engagement. Some companies would remain with the same accounting firm for 30-40 years. So... how do you generate new business in that environment? You diversify services. PricewaterhouseCoopers, for instance, now has Crisis Management and Business Recovery Services, Human Resources Change and Effectiveness Evaluation, Performance Improvement, Governance, Risk and Compliance, IT Effectiveness, Transactions Analysis, Valuation Consulting, Commercial and Market Due Diligence, Mergers & Acquisitions Advisory, Modeling and Business Planning, Structuring Consulting Services, etc.
When they first launched business consulting services, they brought in PR people to help promote it. Since they didn't have a product, per se, the PR guy used "individuals" to distinguish the firm. They hawked credentials of the "leading" partners in the particular service offering. And that was the birth of the "PR expert factory." We manufactured world-renowned specialists.
Okay, from a business perspective at that point you still had "esteemed" somewhere in the picture. The high-priced high-falootin business consultants wore fine-tailored 3-piece suits. But then it all got casual. PR was making big money grooming "experts." Why not groom everybody with a budget? And "experts" went mainstream. Think of it this way: there was a time when people would dress up to take a flight on Pan Am. Today, the disheveled and dirty mass line up to board Hooters Air.
To make matters worse, the PR industry drank its own cool aid. An ex boyfriend of Marcy's was a BIG shot at Burson-Marsteller a few years back. By the look at his resume, you'd swear Mr. Big had ruled South America for at least a few years. Apparently, the resolution of the Falkland Islands mess was all him.
Now certainly, stellar exaggerations are the exceptions. Most are plainly insipid and pedestrian exaggeration. Here, take Shel Holtz (please). Not to pick on the old man but he offered this the other day as the basis to defer to his judgment:
Note: no miracles.
Still sounds impressive... sure but to whom? To PR people maybe. Is that a body of work or rather is it a pail of PR twaddle? The guy shot his entire wad in one sentence. Granted he's a holy man; but it's in the Church of Common Sense. It's a profession whose substance can be imparted to a junior in a few hours over lunch. I am reminded of the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz when he's give a diploma. Sounds good but it's nothing he did or didn't already have. Not worth the paper it's written on, comes to mind.
Bottom line: Is that saint worthy? Are manufactured credentials the stuff of "credibility?" Should we defer to them? Sadly, some do. That's the power of PR, I guess.
I imagine he'll have a monument erected to himself one day. And I'll be by with my can of spray paint, "Here lies a pioneer podcaster and blogger who podcasted extensively about podcasting and blogged about blogging 'til he was blue in the face. Rectum... it killed 'em."
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Shel would look better as the Greek Orthodox Patriatch! Although he makes a decent Pope as well!
Goats stll fear you however
Compared to your associates, you show great skill and promise my friend.
Sorry Amanda, I couldn't get past: "we in public relations puff things up so as to influence other people's decisions." I had this instant vision of a puffer fish that was exhaling fart juice at Sea World.
Ugly. Sorry. Ahem.
Thank you. Comments like that make it all worthwhile.