According to reports from the BBC, the Times of London, and postings on several influential U.K. blogs, the Brits have succumbed to what was thought to be a very American affliction: PR obsession. Ali Miraj, an Asian businessman who is an unsuccessful politico, has accused Conservative party leader David Cameron of being ‘PR obsessed’ when he visited Rwanda rather than attending to his rain-soaked constituents.
The charge by Miraj led Cameron to strike back and accuse his accuser of extorting him for “peerage,” while posts on news blogs mulled the fate of the nation succumbing to “PR over substance.” The Man in a Shed blog breaks down several versions of the story as reported by the BBC and outlines seemingly obvious bias in reporting.
What is really going on here? For insight Strumpette turned to Preston Romley, the British public relations counselor extraordinaire who was formerly known as the Lord of Ping in his hometown Essex-on-Thames. Lord Romley settled in Las Vegas two years ago but he counsels several well-known American conglomerates on understanding British impulses and how to deal with the notoriously persnickety UK press.
“To understand this very modern PR obsession we must go back to the days of William the Bastard, the first Norman King of England in the 11th Century,” pronounced his Lordship. “There was a precise moment when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and gave birth to our PR obsession. Seeking to consolidate his kingdom after defeating Harold, king of England, the Bastard issued an edict that is widely considered to be the first press release. In it he offered free pudding to the poor, who dutifully gathered in the town square and were summarily slaughtered. The edict had been reprinted by calligraphers throughout the land. This is what we know today as media relations.”
The Lord granted that David Cameron had made some mistakes although “that is no reason to issue a fatwa on the man.” He added: “I go by a simple adage in these circumstances: if your constituents are drowning, throw them life preservers. Don’t go off to tend to problems in Africa.”
His Lordship divulged exclusively to Strumpette that he was closing on the top floor penthouse of the new condo hotel on the Vegas strip called Trump-on-Hudson. “It’s just like home except it’s the desert,” said his Lordship. The hotel is east of the Vegas hotels New York, New York, west of Paris, north of Venice, and south of Helsinki.
His Lordship said that the news of PR obsession was infecting the highest reaches of British politics now because of the newly appointed British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s visit to Washington. Brown and President Bush have been seen in numerous photo ops in recent days, including puffing Churchill cigars while sipping on near beer as they galloped around the south lawn of the White House on Clydesdales. Mr. Bush had his sword drawn and was yelling “Death to the Taliban.”
“I don’t call this PR obsession,” said Lord Romley. “I believe that the American President would do this even if he was alone and there were no cameras. Because you are a maniac does not mean you are obsessed.”
Twitterpedia defines PR obsession as the irresistible need to do everything for the benefit and approval of a larger audience. Lord Romley, who plans to christen his new penthouse with a party for 1,000 featuring food by Britney Fried Chicken, music by a recently exhumed Jim Morrison, and fireworks by Zeus, dismisses the notion by his American counterpart, Howard Rubenstein, who has often said that Moses was the first PR person because he interpreted the word of God for the masses. “PR obsession is absolutely a British invention. Any attempt to claim otherwise is, frankly, simply PR,” sniffed his Lordship.
Mark Rose is editor of PRBlogNews - a web publication focusing on public relations practices in the digital age.