Whether it’s a war, sports, politics or the launch of a new soft drink the PR industry is always there.
It’s sometime invisible – indeed one of the fundamental rules of effective PR is that you should never actually see it – it should shape things without anyone seeing how it’s done.
But this is increasingly difficult to achieve in a society so drenched with propaganda and PR that the tactics have become an issue in their own right.
This invisibility is also hard to maintain when some practitioners (like some advertising people) trumpet what they do and how the do it. Indeed, as a general rule clients seeking assistance should rank potential advisers in inverse proportion to how much they promote themselves.
It’s also hard to maintain when a former PR or ad man gets into some other role. You will immediately recognise that this is an entrée to talking about our PM but you may notice that there is no mention of him being a marketer – other than one who failed at it so comprehensively that he was sacked from both the marketing jobs he held.
He was then more successful at running (with Murdoch’s help) a vicious and dirty campaign to get the pre-selection of the person who defeated him in the first pre-selection ballot overturned – indicating that not much has changed in the way he operates.
But arguably he is important in a PR sense because the only really visible thing about his politics are the PR tactics around it. He is – as cynics say – ‘just PR’
It is a strategy which is becoming increasingly ineffective as he is now forced to hide away from disaster victims to avoid more PR disasters such as bush fires debacle and restrict media access while preferring to use his personal photographer as an independent recorder of events.
But there are also times when you ardently wish that PR people and their organisations stay in their preferred position – in the background – or just shut up and do nothing.
This is exemplified when PR organisations or people feel the need to pontificate on events. A good example was a recent statement by the IPRA, the International Public Relations Association.
IPRA is not the only PR organisation – most countries have several organisations; many organisations which demonstrably do PR call themselves something else; and, some practitioners of the dark arts don’t associate themselves with any professional organisation but try to position themselves as high level corporate and strategic advisors even when they dispense banal advice of the sort which appears profound to out of touch business people.
Anyway – IPRA decided to leap into the Ukrainian situation.
IPRA didn’t use the word situation but it is thrown in here to highlight the fact that many PR people tend to think in terms such as ‘situations’ rather than direct old-fashioned English. Indeed, it is arguable that the most significant contributions some practitioners have made in their career is the creation of new euphemisms and obfuscations.
IPRA released a statement from its President, Etsuko Tsugihira IPRA, saying that: “IPRA, the International Public Relations Association, reaffirms its policy to not become involved in political or religious activity beyond the encouragement of communication as a means of resolving disputes.
“IPRA also reaffirms our Code of Conduct which recalls both the Charter of the United Nations which determines ‘to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, and in the dignity and worth of the human person’, and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“Moreover, in article 8 of the code we recall that in the conduct of PR, practitioners must ‘make every effort to not intentionally disseminate false or misleading information, exercise proper care to avoid doing so unintentionally and correct any such act promptly.’
“In the context therefore of the conflict in Ukraine we firstly extend our sympathy to all those whose human rights are affected and state that our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine and IPRA members based there.
“Secondly, although conflict is ongoing, we call on all parties to not forget communication as a means of resolving disputes.
“Furthermore, we remind all parties of the danger of misleading information at such a time and call for clarity and truth.”
Well- meaning and heartfelt no doubt. But really? It might well have been better to say nothing rather than opening yourself up to derision and ridicule – and not only from Vladimir Putin.
Indeed, saying nothing for a change (well silence instead of nothing marketing slogans) might be a tactic Scott Morrison could adopt if he could ever find his personal Eveready bunny heart and switch it off.