Is It Still PR?

March 22, 2016

“I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.”

Over the past 100-plus years, this quote has, at various times and by various people, been attributed to: Mark Twain, Mae West, Will Rogers, Oscar Wilde, George M. Cohan and W.C. Fields — and probably many more. I think it’s fair to say that no one knows for sure who originated the quote, but many have recognized the truth and value of the idea behind it. And, for most of those 100-plus years, it probably rang true. But that was in the days when “publicity men” could “control” the media, trading inside information for veto power over what was published. In this way, politicians and entertainers were long protected by the press in exchange for access. However, those days are long gone. Many, myself included, think they started to end during the Nixon administration, when the media gloves came off, and the situation has gone downhill since. Certainly, the “news” should report the truth, however painful, and facts should be at the essence of the story. But now, with so many outlets for information, with gossip and innuendo masquerading as news and with so many people willing to believe anything they read, regardless of the source, it has become far more important than it ever has to manage one’s reputation — be it an individual’s or a company’s. So now, while public relations (PR) still exists as it did years ago, it has become so much more. In addition to seeing what we can get printed for our clients, we have to try and manage what doesn’t get printed and, even worse, handle negative things when they’re printed. The world is filled with websites, bloggers and social media pages, with more and more being added every single day. As a result, PR is more challenging and, in some ways, more fun, but the stakes are higher and good agencies and good clients are working even more closely together to ensure the best possible outcome from what is said and printed — and what’s not said and not printed. And now, because I’m still a little old school, it’s spelled: S.C.O.T.T. H.A.R.R.I.S.