Wednesday, 5 July 2006

The glamorous world of public relations

I had an unusually full and interesting response to my last contribution in this space.

First there was the lady who accused me of trying to murder her husband, as he had almost choked on his breakfast while reading my column. (I really am sorry, my dear, and shall try to do the job properly this time.)

Then there was the bloke who e-mailed me to ask whether I was a real person or a fictional construct. Having settled that point, he proceeded to take me to task for my ‘quite bizarre’ views, and for failing to use my media access to present public relations in a better light.

He felt that my website must be a spoof because it says that I aim to do the smallest possible amount of work for the largest amount of money. He may well be the first human ever to have undergone a completely successful sense-of-humour bypass operation. But like all decent jokes, mine has a solid foundation in truth.

This critic boasted an impressive ‘blog’ of his own, on which he put the letters ‘CIPR’ after his name. I had always thought this was an acronym for the trans-Canadian railway, but it turns out to be something called the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. Apparently an organization for people who like to think of PR as a profession. Personally, I have always thought of it as a trade, and a rather grubby one at that.

The ‘blog’ also boasted four contact telephone numbers including New York, London and Skype. Not an island off Scotland, it seems, but something to do with that Internet thingie.

I have to tell you, I was impressed. But then my image and branding consultant took it upon himself to e-mail my correspondent a few home truths about the meaning and purpose of PR, and received a rather meek reply along the lines of ‘actually, I’m only a student’.

Perhaps doing one of those degrees in public relations, which are every bit as highly regarded as those in media studies and golf course management.

By now I had concluded that I was dealing with a first class Walter Mitty fantasist, and have no idea which of the above representations of his place in society is correct. But I predict one thing with total confidence. He can look forward to a glittering career in communications, probably sanitizing the telephones in your office.

Keith Hann is a PR consultant with an unusual approach, and an even more unusual exit.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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