Does a gay practice fit into the business of public relations?
To the chagrin of outrageously gay bloggers like Perez Hilton, tandem-male podcasters the likes of Hobson-Holtz, and a legion of frivolous PR weenies, Fleishman-Hillard eclipsed them all last week and laid claim to the unique distinction of having the PR industry's gayest blog.
This blog is written by three cowboys from Fleishman-Hillard PR, namely Eddy Evans, Ben Finzel and Steve Kauffman. Together they co-chair FH Out Front, the first Brokeback Public Relations practice at a major PR firm. They've set out to "help clients reach the nation's LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) population." There blog "is designed to stimulate discussion on gay communications issues."
Okay, we’re not going to beat around the bush. Fact is, this new drama center isn't actually expected to suck the vacuous wind out of the sails of PR's web “conversation.” Sure, some with mendacious reckless abandon will hump it silly. But the majority of the industry, however stiff with the thoughts of political correctness, is not expected to get behind it, let alone mount support.
Why? Because a gay practice may not be appropriate let alone make any business sense. It just inspires a myriad of questions.
But before we get into more specific detail, it's critical that one put the business of PR in perspective. That's not easy. Simply, there are two warring schools of thought presently about the role of PR today: 1) as a service to the media exclusively to facilitate the dissemination of fact on behalf of an organization; 2) as a not so out front marketing tool used primarily to facilitate “the sale” surreptitiously.
With that in mind, we have few questions for Fleishman's CEO, David Senay...
- Considering the schools of thought mentioned above, what role does F-H Out Front play?
- Why does a company need to label the facilitator of fact as gay or having a gay bias?
- Is it to be assumed that gay PR people are better at communicating with the gay market and/or the gay press?
- Where we understand gay issues, what are "gay communications issues"?
- Other than the political definition of gay and especially the dollars that this political group can potentially command, what other business motivators are there to have a gay practice?
- If tapping into a political group is the objective, is F-H considering other deep-pocket political groups? How about a Women’s-Lib Practice? How about a Pro-Gun Practice?
- As this commitment is anything but agnostic, are your clients on board with it? Do you care?
- Does the Out Front practice have any non-gays on the team? How does F-H then manage Title VII? Have you had any inquires from the EEOC?
- Is a PR firm with a political agenda in effect a Political Action Committee?
- Lastly, do you think the disclaimer on the blog distances it from F-H either legally or perception-wise?
BUT, that's if we take it seriously. Maybe we shouldn't. According to a company insider, "I heard John Graham talk about this when it was in the planning stages. I never heard any rationale for it other than to make a statement that FH is gay-friendly. My first reaction was that this was a recruiting tool for the increasing number of gay men going into this field. 'Not only do we x y and z, but we have a gay practice specialty!' They can also say they were first."
Companies tend to hire companies who not only understand theory, but also have personal experience in their field of expertise. This company seems to have an inside edge because of their knowledge of gay society (http://www.42below.com/flashad/gay/).
Nothing wrong with being close to a client, is there? In the world of Customer Relationship Management and today's 'Business 2.0', sharing your client's values seems to be a good business practice and leads to more work. I wonder if politicians will be hiring Heidi Fleiss and Amanda for 'consulting' skills soon?