Posted by Mark Rose
You say you want a revolution
The uprising in Burma-Myanmar reached a fevered pitch this week and reminded us of how important blogging can be. Citizen journalists on the ground reported on skirmishes and posted graphic pictures of death and bloodshed as photographers were cut down by gunfire and monks were killed, beaten, corralled and confined. We may choose not to react, or we may find ourselves impotent against a far off military regime, but we cannot claim ignorance. When the junta cut Internet access I really felt their pain. I am tethered to the Internet at least six hours a day and life without it seems inconceivable. When Myanmar blogs went black it was a cruel reminder that there are still places in the world that can enslave its people and prevent the rest of humanity from peering in.
As of today the people of Myanmar are finding a way to break through the digital iron curtain. Reports and images are coming through an adept London-based blogger, Ko Htike, who is feeding news to CNN and other mainstream media for wider distribution. Burmamyanmargenocide is a good central site that is aggregating news from inside the country. Bloggers inside Burna-Myanmar are risking their jobs, businesses, families, even their lives to get the word out. We have an obligation to pass the news to the widest possible audience.
The President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, zipped through my neighborhood on the upper west side of Manhattan last week, with a quick stop at Columbia. What seemed like a tailor made PR opportunity for the nuke-loving, genocide-denying, great-Satan-hating dictator turned into a humiliating turn as the President of Columbia, Lee Bollinger, excoriated his “petty tyrant” guest. Bollinger was playing to an American audience, but Ahmadinejad was playing to his constituency. The Arab world was sympathetic to the Iranian’s slight by the Great Satan and the Iranian government was emboldened enough to label the CIA and the U.S. military “terrorist organizations.” The rationale is the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib, and secret jails in other countries. So, there, after the ‘dialogue’ in the U.S. we are more polarized than ever. So when do we stop talking and start shooting?
Burson blows it big time
While Strumpette was lashing Ogilvy to the whipping post for pimping online gambling, and once again belittling Ronn Torossian for flacking Girls Gone Wild, Burson-Marsteller, supposedly a blue chip PR firm, was really mucking in the sleaze. Burson has been fronting a bogus organization on behalf of Microsoft to try to stop Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick. The organization was PRing for a “more transparent and competitive Internet,” but failed to tell reporters and organizations that Burson was on this mission at the behest of Microsoft. Burson was busted by The Guardian and then The Wall Street Journal followed with an in-depth piece. The organization, Initiative for Competitive Online Marketplaces (ICOMP) now says right up front on its website that this is a Burson-Microsoft scheme. The pathetic list of “signatories” to this initiative underscores its utter failure.
It seems that PR firms will always push the ethical envelope but it is up to individual account people to take responsibility for their actions. I have a simple rule in contacting the media. Within 15 seconds of the call the reporter will know: a) who I am b) who I represent c) why I am calling. No bull, no schemes, no lies. Simple. Burson’s actions here are reprehensible. I would think they know better but obviously they don’t. Let’s see if Harold Burson addresses this sad episode on his blog.
Seeking Baba Rubel
“Sometimes you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.”
Since I started taking LSD, public relations has become much easier. I drop a tab of acid and I don’t care about ineptitude or constrained thinking or small minded people who cannot appreciate the interconnectedness of all things. I first wrote about the resurgence of psychedelic PR on PRBlogNews. It’s simple. You shed your clothes at a new business meeting and drop some acid and voila! there are no inhibitions between the account team and the prospective client. Think about it. You don’t need Power Point if you’re naked and tripping.
So, I admit that I was in a psychedelic state though fully clothed last Thursday when Peter Himler, aka The Flack, dragged me through the hot, humid, smog oppressed streets of New York to attend a Bulldog Reporter event “PR Agency Management ’07 Summit.” Peter was on a panel titled “What Role Should New PR Technologies Play in Your Services Menu?” Greg Miller was also on the panel but I was really there to see the third panelist, the High Priest of Psychedelic PR, Steve Rubel, otherwise known as Baba Rubel to the many who covet his every word on his blog Microconfusion.
Babaji did not disappoint. “I have two messages here for you today,” said the seated Baba Rubel to his prospective devotees. His head was glowing and I could see that he was channeling the divine spirit.
“We’re not in the communications business anymore,” he said with a fervor bordering on zealotry. “It’s not about writing. It’s not about press releases. It’s not about action. It’s all about collaborating toward common outcomes. In the end we don’t create the message. Apple and Google are good companies because they make good products. We help companies do good things.”
Wow. Now this guy be trippin’. Finally, somebody is able to see that we are all luminous beings and we really do not need to create news or package stories or write or communicate. We can all sit in a lotus position and play with gadgets and collect a paycheck, like Baba Rubel.
“Wire services will go out of business within five years. It will all be RSS,” Babaji predicted. Double wow. I guess Rupert Murdoch is in for a big surprise with his recent acquisition of Dow Jones. Seems like he wasted $5 billion, according to Baba Rubel, who said that these days he will “only speak geek and speak marketing.” I guess he doesn’t speak “media.”
Before transporting to another plane, Baba Rubel left us with this divine wisdom: “The earth is flat. Global is local, local is global.”
I looked around the small, hot room at the buttoned down PR execs and I could see that they were stunned non-believers. It was then that I had an epiphany. Before Babji speaks his audience should be required to drop acid. Then they will be able to understand the simple truth within his seemingly nonsensical words.
Mark Rose is editor of PRBlogNews - a web publication focusing on public relations practices in the digital age.
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Thanks for bringing out the heavy artillery, Mark. Burson-Marsteller deserves the whipping, just as Ogilvy did for its decision to promote online gambling. What's next, a campaign to promote crack use?
Each time I see these stories, I'm reminded of how much our industry needs critics like Strumpette and John Stauber (Center for Media & Democracy). Why aren't there more watchdogs in PR?
It's sad how shameless we've become when corporate America waves millions under our noses. As for dropping acid at meetings, it has potential. Jerry Garcia is smiling down on the naked truth of it all! Rock on, Fatman, and kudos, Mark, for trying to keep us honest.
At the Burson "blog page" it describes Harold Burson's blog: "The firm's founder discusses issues related to communications and reputation." I just left this comment on Harold Burson's blog. Let's see what he has to say.
Can you offer us your perspective on the recent news that Burson-Marsteller did not properly disclose its relationship with Microsoft on the Initiative for Online Competitive Marketplaces? Thank you.