Posted by Amanda Chapel
That's it. I’ve had it. I quit!!
Okay, deep breath. Where’s this coming from? Have you ever been to that place where something seems so hopeless that you can literally taste it? Like stale sourdough bread. Well, that's where my head is today with regard to the PR business and Strumpette for that matter. PR is so beyond ridiculous. Fact is, it’s beyond shameless. What’s the point?! That is the point!
I am literally writing this on the floor. I pretty much have lost the will to live. Perhaps the Strumpette exorcise (with an “o”) has been a total waste, a mere homage to the vanities. That’s so depressing. It is/was the good fight but maybe it’s time to throw in the towel.
Another deep breath… followed by a long exasperated sigh. Apparently, my week here has gotten off to a bad start. Ya think? As some of you know, I'm still reeling from having lost my friend Ronn Torossian to “youth” porn. Very depressing. He’s the next generation and I had such high hopes. But in retrospect, what’s more depressing is that this is not an isolated incident. He clearly makes that point in his rebuttal. Sadly, it underscores what PR has become today, i.e. an industry without a conscience or soul. Anything goes. One can never be out of bounds in a place without moral boundaries. Frankly, it is worse than even that. Today, fucked-up behavior pays! How much free publicity did Britney just get for shaving her head and readmitting herself to rehab? Immeasurable. Priceless.
Why is that? Well, it’s partially a cultural thing. And on the road to ubiquitous PR, the model disintegrated. Here, fundamentally it used to be: Popularity got you laid. Getting laid led to opportunities. Opportunities led to cash flow. Cash used correctly could bolster popularity. Repeat cycle.
The operative word is “popularity.” See, there once were moral standards. Someone did something heinous; they ended up in the Book of the Dead. Today, they’re likely in Oprah’s Book Club. Today, just plain exposure is confused for popularity. Hey, Strumpette has more than 600 friends on MySpace. Not really sure what the hell that even means.
It is in that context that “beyond ridicule” comes into play. We’ve sold our clients on the value of general awareness and simultaneously spun our moral compass right out the window. The new model is: Ink, ink, ink... exposure equals celebrity. Celebrity will get one laid. That invariable will dramatically increase the parade (of Chris Hansen pervs actually, but what the hell). And that will likely get you a guest spot on Oprah. Book sales will skyrocket. It's sad but true.
Here’s an example: We were going to write a story about Maggie Chamberlin Holben today. Damn that shameless minx. If you recall, a few months ago we wrote a story about Maggie titled, "Colorado Businesswomen Busted for Public Self Gratification." Totally embarrassing, not like marketing porn to youth, mind you, but still. We ridiculed Maggie strongly for her having broadly distributed a press release announcing pathetically that she had been quoted in the paper. What utter crap. The news was only that Mags had been was mentioned in the news! We teased her incessantly and said that “according to our sources, Maggie is presently considering a press release about having distributed her press release.” Well, sure enough… she did it again:
For the record, that’s incurable. So is Torossian. Why? Simple game theory: when everyone is cheating and there’s no negative consequence for the behavior, it short order; everyone will cheat at the game. It’s a competitive advantage and the rules are lowered to accommodate it. It’s the psychology of looting. In that context, morals are a huge burden. That’s about where we are as an industry.
Can we be shamed into good behavior? Hmmmm… doesn’t look like it. I think we may be beyond that. In the past Torossian would have dropped the Girls Gone Wild account faster than you can say “anal.” Maggie certainly would have learned from her mistake rather than celebrate it.
Frankly, I think the effectiveness of public ridicule is all but dead. Hey, I don’t think it’s even possible to defame a PR person. First, for the obvious reason, you can’t insult someone that low, technically speaking; but more importantly, there's no damage. Ridicule just leads to more general awareness which will invariably lead to more business.
Seriously, I so quit.
See you tomorrow.
Friday five: February 23rd
One of the great things about blogging is that your can stretch deadlines! Better late than never, here are my top five posts for last week. 1. The Bad Pitch Blog warns against pay-for-play opportunities. I’ve run into several of these operatio...
Weblog: Strive Notes
Tracked: Feb 26, 06:19
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That's why I went out on my own. I'd had enough of other people's morals and so called correct choices. I guess you can't BS a BS artist.
However, now that I'm on the other side, I catch grief from others, too. So I just think we're all people doing the best we can. As an independent, I feel like I can make it so long as I don't sell out.
Good entry, very thought provoking.
Buck up, Amanda... They don't call it the "bleeding" edge for nothing! You are ahead of the curve in your rejection of this race to the bottom.
I've experienced the same emotions, at work and blogging lately. The future is a lonely place. While many of my past ideas have become the norm, all my latest/greatest concepts start off as foreign and too different to be accepted. This isn't surprising because in the past I've under-estimated the degree of change, while over-estimating people's ability to perceive and respond to that change. When dataesthetic.org was first founded, we saw the emerging world as an extension of industrial society, a logical next stage. Today I realize this was wrong: Network/data culture represents the greatest change in the human condition since agriculture. We came to recognize this about the same time the world came around to our previous position. On one hand this makes me seem "forward-thinking", but on the other, my repudiation and and willingness to re-evaluate makes my perspective seem wishy-washy or clouded.
All you can do is keep posting about the things you see. At some point, others are bound to see things too, and then it will be old news. We can be as forward looking as we care to be, but unless someone reads or engages with the content, it just doesn't matter. Only by posting the problem on sites like Strumpette will the conversation begin, and questions be asked. For the record, shameless self-promotion isn't new, but the manner and degree we see today is unique. A recent poll showed that the majority of teens today want to be famous. Not "accomplished/famous" like athletes, politicians, movie stars and musical artists who are famous for their work, but "notorious/famous" like Paris Hilton or K-Fed, famous for their slack. It's another side of the same coin.
It won't go away any time soon, of course, so I get your frustration and despair. It has become a legitimate tactic, thus it would be a disservice to clients NOT to recognize and respond to it (if not practice it!). I'm reminded of this week's Boston Legal: Alan Shore intentionally undermined a friend's remarkable recovery from Asperger's Syndrome to win a case. Yet as you noted in your earlier Ron/GGW post PR isn't the law, so it's completely fair to ask what standards we hold ourselves to. Shel noted in his week-summary post on Strumpette, PR is earned, not bought. I believe that currency is undermined much more by political PR than shameless notariety. The PR pros in the White House and Congress do violence to the national dialogue by using the tool of "the non-crisis" (I wrote an article on this issue at http://dataesthetic.org/dbdd/?p=7 ) to incite and scare voters in a particular direction. Another view of the same tumor, eating away at our culture.
Many times the best parry is a joke. Ridicule the ridiculous openly and loudly, and ridiculous loses it's luster and cultural cachet. Posts like today's make the point sharply and wittily, and force readers to think. Given the number of readers who are PR pros, the conversation might actually have an affect over the long term. We have to individually reject the message, as well as the messengers to solve the problem. Brand the worst-practices with a scarlet A, and don't let them sit with you at lunch! After all, no one likes being banished to the geek table.
It is only natural that you would despair. You are pushing the edge so far that it is redefining the boundaries. It's lonely out there. You force issues we would rather forget. And you do it with artistry that escapes most of us. We'd really be lost without you.
Wow, Mandy --
And I thought we were friends, possibly kindred spirits? Just two working
girls, with a common love of PR.
Have you heard the one about the punishment not fitting the crime?
Minx? At first glance I thought you were comparing me to a tail-less cat,
but you said minx (a "pert girl;" a "wanton woman") -- and shameless to
boot! FYI -- I'll take the first minx definition, if I get choice, and/or
if you're having a good day and want to throw a bone to your PR gal pal in
But Crap? Low? F#&%ed-up? Talk about Arrrrgh! That's Arrrrgh to the tenth
power, girlfriend, in my humble opinion.
Just a few facts please, in personal defense, from your recent Strumpette
Since Absolutely PR launched the "Maggie Chamberlin Holben" campaign in 2002, we've had these nine positive placements: Denver Business Journal, 9News, Discover's Inside Biz newsletter -- Public Relations issue, 850 KOA, Denver Post, Boulder Daily Camera, Colorado Daily, Rocky Mountain News and Home Office Weekly.
Now, thanks to you Mandy, there's this rather negative, hyper-emotional
cyber ink from you (in your widely popular PR industry journal) -- complete
with the F-word (albeit used as a quasi-acceptable adjective) and mention in
the same ranting column with an icky porn vendor! Yeaks? I really did rub
your fur the wrong way -- scary.
Standing back, however, and despite your ongoing admonishments, ridicule and
unmerciful teasing, I still see a whole lot more on the positive side for
the Maggie Holben campaign, than negative.
Could I appeal for your mercy? Mercy for a communications colleague just
trying to make a living out in the cold, cruel world? Maybe even one day
Absolutely PR will qualify for one of those puff-pieces that you might write
on a good day in the big city? Something to strive for, I believe. You truly
set the bar high.
As I thought about closing this posting, I considered quoting the late Mae
West when her boyfriend, Ernie, was complaining about her tightness and
flatness with the quip, "Strumpette, get off my back!"
But, I know you're really only trying to do good for PR and I don't want to
be mean-spirited. So, Mandy, isn't it time we turn the corner and walk down
the path of friendship together? Please, pretty please?
I really think it's truce time for us.
Mags (and I don't let everybody call me that) Holben