Posted by Amanda Chapel
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
You know at the end of an all-night poker game where the exhausted survivors start to just cut the deck for big stakes? Well, as you recall, back at the end of June we described PR's foray into Web 2.0 as being in the World Series of Texas Holdem. Then like a drunken fool, the industry was capriciously betting the farm on anarchy. Now, a box of seedy cigars, a few fifths of Jack, and a parade of hookers later... PR is down to cutting the deck. I wish. No, it's worse than that. It's a freakin' coin toss. Richard Edelman, the CEO of one of the largest agencies in the world, the other day likened the industry's present state to a "Fork in the Road." Technically, he's givin' us a 50/50 chance: heads you live, tails you die.
What the hell is Richard thinking? Apparently, he's finally coming to terms with the rising tide of abject rejection of PR on the new frontier of social networking. Ironically, there's been a mass revolt against his Me2Revolution. In his words, there's a "rebellion in the blogosphere rejecting PR-spawned material as invasive and inherently false."
Hello! We've only been ringing this alarm bell for the last six months. Apparently, Richard is now hearing it from his own:
"I want to comment on this week's article by Paul Holmes, titled 'Anti-Social: Is Public Relations Messing Up in the Blogosphere' and a companion piece written by Jeff Jarvis titled 'PR and the New Architecture of Information.' Both are concerned about the seeming inability of PR people to perform in this expanded role. Holmes concludes that PR people 'are in danger of becoming pariahs in the social media realm.'"
EDELMAN'S GOT A PLAN, TRIES TO REINJECT CONFIDENCE
Excuse me but... if you've got skin in the PR game, Richard's next toss should have you somewhat anxious; that is, if you've got half a brain or have not drunk the Kool-Aid.
In either case, well, relax. He's got a plan. Besides promoting "success stories as part of our continuing effort to educate our colleagues and academia about best practices," Edelman's now calling for "credible advocacy."
"We have to move beyond a position of agent or broker. We are now responsible for the quality of the information and the integrity of the vehicle, because our content may be going directly to audiences, as well as through the filter of independent media. We should offer access to data on both sides of an issue. Content needs to be real. Authenticity and attribution are expected."
Again, if you've got skin in the game, half a brain and have not drunk the Kool-Aid... if you relaxed (see above)... you probably just soiled yourself. Edelman promoting "success stories" is laughable in light of Wal-Mart, WOMMA, etc.; and PR espousing "credible advocacy" is almost pathologic.
Richard got the "credible advocacy" part from Edelman advisor David Weinberger. David is absolutely right but Richard's interpretation of what he's saying on a good day is problematic. PR as credible advocates? Please. Someone shoot me. I am begging you!
Here, by way of a little story, let me put it in perspective: I had a boss once that would get himself all worked up before a new business presentation. He would become the client. Whatever the widget, glue or cancerous effusing fuzz that prospect happen to make, he’d totally immerse himself and subsequently sell himself on the wondrous benefits of their product/service. He was no longer an "objective agent" but a "true believer." He truly became the credible advocate. Funny, at that point he didn’t care if they paid him or not.
Today, that’s quite rare. In PR, we try to think of ourselves as lawyers for cripes sake. We pride ourselves in being objective agents. As such, taking money to devise a strategy to influence a target group... is NEVER going to be appropriate in a total access - totally exposed - society. The internet is summarily rejecting PR because they/we no longer have an institution - the media - to shield from the inevitable consequence of fraud and manipulation.
PS For the record, that former boss was ultimately fired. His attitude completely pissed off the bean counters in New York.
COMMENTARY: WE QUESTION RICHARD'S LEADERSHIP
And who the hell drove us to this fork in the road? Again, there's a certain pathologic in Edelman's words.
I am reminded of the movie Pope of Greenwich Village. There's a scene where/when the dimwit Paulie gets his cousin Charlie fired from his job. In the next scene they get into a little bit of a tussle over the matter and Paulie inadvertently rips Charlie's shirt. Injury to injury, Charlie is now even more incensed. But Paulie calmly tells him "dont know why you need those fancy suits Charlie, you got no job to wear em too!"