Got to be the PR Play of the Week. Surely this will be on everyone's highlight reel. Zócalo Group CEO Paul Rand made an unbelievable save here today.
As you are aware, we had a little controversy yesterday. One of the authors of the just released white paper by the Council of PR Firms, came out with a strong bias promoting a radical social-media agenda. The ref threw a flag. FOUL! But this was no minor faux pas by a junior. It was a terribly bad play by an industry authority that ultimately jeopardized everything. Most industry experts were ready to call the game.
But then Rand jumped in and in a demonstration of brute strength and athleticism pulled off a near miracle to save the day. Absolutely breathtaking!
Well, the good news is we are at least back to a fair and open discussion. We hope. The other key players on the team are, of course, the members of the Council who frankly have yet to show up.
Here, for those that weren't there, is Paul Rand.
Changing the Tire at 60 Miles per Hour
By Paul M. Rand
President/CEO of Zócalo Group
“How much influence will public relations wield as other marketing disciplines rethink their own mandates and retool themselves for the new world?”
That’s the basic question we outlined in the Council of PR Firms White Paper. It’s a valid question that has to be answered and addressed if the industry is going to thrive – or even survive – in the new era we’re living in.
The answer lies in between those who don’t think any change is necessary and those that think only a radical overhaul will do -- and there are a surprising number of people in both camps.
PR plays a big role in business today and is even a big business if and of itself. So, in essence, this issue is the equivalent of needing to change a tire while the car’s still going 60 mph. We can’t afford to slow down but we can’t afford not to change.
The White Paper doesn’t have all the answers. But many of us, including the Council, want to make sure that the questions are being asked and something is on paper that people can react to.
So much for the credibility of the Council of PR Firms' white paper we just endorsed Friday. Well, let's put it this way, we are seriously rethinking our support. We were told that it "attempts to take as unbiased a look as possible at the opportunities and challenges facing the PR industry." Now however, it appears that the real true motive behind the paper was a PR stunt. One of the authors has subsequently demonstrated a radical bias and has even called for most PRs to leave the profession directly.
Pardon me but aside from Rodriguez' total lack of independence, we find the discussion VERY disturbing. Not only does Rodriguez send 99 percent of the current practitioners packing, he totally mangles the definition of what we do for a living; unmoors us from the law; and disengages us from our masters and sponsors.
Again, WOW. Indeed, that is a Call to Action; but certainly not that one we were expecting.
RODRIGUEZ - "I disagree that the blogosphere hates influence. In fact, so much of what passes for conversation in the blogosphere is all about influence; that's why bloggers revel in influence-peddling schemes like aggregating, baiting, aggressive linking, etc."
CHAPEL - Faulty logic. The fact that there are sinners does not equate to the church or body politic approving of sin.
Secondly, I challenge you. Do an online poll and for every person that says "I'd like to be influenced," I'll give you a $1,000. Now for every person that says they hate to be influenced and/or manipulated, you give me a $1. Okay?
RODRIGUEZ - "[The blogosphere] generally distrusts corporate influence because it tends to be so undemocratic (more money = more influence)."
CHAPEL - First off, you're confusing democracy with populism. In a populist society, anyone who has more of anything is despised.
RODRIGUEZ - "The big challenge for PR agents and their clients is to implement programs that are not just about gaming the system."
CHAPEL - The very nature of an organization within the system is to optimize resources. It is the "duty" of the agent to get the MOST for his/her client within legal and ethical boundaries.
RODRIGUEZ - "I'd argue that real problems arise when businesses start gaming the system (yes, plenty of PR people have been advising their clients to do that). There are more effective ways to engage, e.g., if they commit to being transparent (i.e., they clearly disclose their identities and objectives), and they provide an open environment for conversation (they accept and answer comments), they are at least providing their customers with more than the basic caveat emptor, the lowly standard in other marketing approaches (advertising, "traditional" PR, etc.)."
CHAPEL - I am sorry, but this is either totally naïve or totally devoid of business reality. ALL capitalism at its root is based on the "game" and greed. The very reason we employ that system is because it just doesn't get any more effective.
RODRIGUEZ - "But I'd argue that there's nothing "mere" about an approach that advocates direct contact with your customer."
CHAPEL - Excuse me but direct marketing is NOT the C-level strategic discipline that PR once was. Tactics are "mere" by definition.
RODRIGUEZ - "And there's little that's genuine about 'organizational voice.' People have voices. Businesses don't."
CHAPEL - Pure dee zealot libertarian Cluetrain crap. Businesses absolutely have a voice and character. PR is the business of creating and managing that voice.
RODRIGUEZ - "The role [PR consultants] traditionally have played is "agent" -- they act on behalf, and represent, the business that employs them. But in the new world, the client is the actor, and the PR pro, ideally, has more of a counselor's role ... if any role at all. Is counseling a good business? We'll have to see -- too early to tell."
CHAPEL - Your honor I rest my case and call for summary judgment.
RODRIGUEZ - "But if the question here is about the fiduciary responsibility of the corporate blogger -- not the PR person -- to her employer, that's a separate discussion. There's nothing in the "tenets" of social media that would make it impossible to do well in the blogosphere and still respect one's fiduciary responsibilities."
CHAPEL - Sure there is. Again, you're expecting the blogger to be radically transparent where one's fiduciary responsibility in all likelihood involves confidentiality. Who's your master?
RODRIGUEZ - "Nothing wrong about anyone participating in the SM world, as long as they are speaking for themselves."
CHAPEL - I take it you'll also pay yourself, too.
RODRIGUEZ - "We've spent a couple of years beating up on "secret agents" -- from the world of WOM to the world of PR -- and I think we're already tired of them."
CHAPEL - Cute but misguided. An agent is a legal term and an inextricable part of corporate and transactional law.
RODRIGUEZ - "[Agents] will either find something else to do in the profession, or leave altogether. How soon will this happen? No idea, but my advice to everyone in the PR biz: no sense waiting."
CHAPEL - Again, you've mangled the definition of what we do for a living; unmoored us from the law; disengaged us from masters and sponsors; and sent 99 percent of the current practitioners packing. Nice. Good plan. Very promising. So much for your Call to Action. Sounds pretty definitive. Was the white paper just a PR stunt then?
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