Tuesday, 2 December 2014
Now, like London buses, three have come in fairly close timing. Two are memoirs; one is a corporate biography. In this northern autumn/fall, the two memoirs have been published.
The loudest and brashest is Right or Wrong by Lord Tim Bell of Saatchi & Saatchi, Lowe Bell and Bell Pottinger advertising and PR renown. It is published by Bloomsbury and has been serialised in a national newspaper.
More simply presented is Glow worms, self-published by Italian PR adviser Toni Muzi Falconi and available free online or as a low-cost paperback from Amazon. But don't let the packaging confuse you, as both authors have considerable personal and political lives which are placed before the reader.
The Bell memoir has points of Mad Men-type humour that are funnier and more ribald than the TV series, considerable insight into UK Conservative politics from the late 1970s until the mid-1990s and into the golden era of British advertising in the 1970s.
However, it is a mess to read with lumps of Ayn Rand-type libertarianism bobbing up at odd times that confuse the narrative. Lord Bell, in life, is a charmer in the style of what Australians call 'a larrikin in a suit' - Fun to be with, loyal to friends, devastating to enemies (many examples in the book) but not always in control of his actions. His opinions are strongly held but tediously expressed.
Toni Muzi Falconi, now in his mid-70s, tells about his role in the development of Italian PR from the 1960s onward complete with tales of success, errors, and corruption in the inter-relation of government and the promotional sectors. It is interwoven with tales of his privileged upbringing, a priapic youth and a sometimes turbulent personal life. Along the way he developed and sold several PR and advisory businesses and was a leader of the Global Alliance PR body at its outset.
Both memoirists present a 'warts and all' tale of themselves without 'spin' or embellishment. They have impressive networks of contacts which are exercised in personal and professional life, so there is no doubt that they see themselves as leaders and innovators but there is an essential raw humanity in these books.
Published a year or so ago is the corporate biography of Dan Edelman, founder of the eponymous internationally-operating Edelman agency group. Titled Edelman and the Rise of Public Relations and written by former agency staffer Franz Wisner, it is also offered as a free download (via the annoying Scribd service) and as a impressively produced hardback.
It tells the story of Edelman senior as he moved from his home in New York City to Chicago after war service and, with some risk, set up his agency in a distant city after making his name promoting Toni Home Perms to American women. The agency, after initial problems, took off and the book then tells more of the rise of the company than of Dan Edelman.
Treated as a popular history of the rise of the PR business in the US, Edelman and the Rise of Public Relations is useful background. However, it is the product of a (very successful) PR agency which wants to put the best image forward, not only for its founder but his heirs and successors. For all the glossiness and presentation, it could have been a stronger and more engaging book had an historian researched and written it.
All three books are worth tracking down for personal reading and libraries, if you are a practitioner, historian of PR or students. Let's hope more memoirs are being prepared by practitioners and industry leaders to fill this deficit in the history of PR.
Thursday, 23 October 2014
PR has a rich history, but it wasn’t invented by Edward Bernays as cursory reading would have demonstrated.
Wednesday, 16 July 2014
Here's the situation: Recently, I bought a new Ford Focus. It's very nice and a top example of how a manufacturer can constantly improve a product yet remain price competitive. When completing the purchase, the salesman told me that I would be sent a survey by email asking about my experience of the purchase. Please, he implored, say you were 'completely satisfied' with the purchase or he wouldn't get his bonus.
So yesterday, the survey arrived and I ticked the question that I was 'completely satisfied' so the salesman, who had been very professional, would get his reward. But what disturbed me were questions, with a five-point scale' was whether I 'loved Ford' and, later, whether I 'loved' the (unnameable) dealership.
What an abuse of the term 'love' to imply that I could have (to quote OED) 'a strong feeling of affection' or 'great interest and pleasure in something'? I have left out the sexual attraction element of love definitions as it would be perverse to have such feelings about an inanimate collection of metal, plastic and rubber or a corporate entity
Even these definitions are low on the scale of the understanding of love as a complex emotional state with deep ethical and trustful characteristics. So my view is that Ford's reputation has slumped with these inept questions.
I answered "neither agree nor disagree" on the five-point scale because I simply didn't care that much about Ford. It was a question that was utterly irrelevant. I hope Ford keeps making nice middle-market cars but their marketers learn not to abuse their customers with such repellent demands for corporate affection.
Wednesday, 26 March 2014
Wednesday, 5 March 2014
Tuesday, 4 March 2014
- 80% of placement organisations undertook formal or information evaluation of PR activity
- 79.2% of activity was measured in those organisations that undertook evaluation
- The main measurement was of media coverage, by 10 times (at least) ahead of measurement of KPIs, social media or organisational objectives (in that ranking)
- AVE was used in 43.2% of placement organisations; On the other hand, it was not used in 56.8% of placement organisations
Monday, 3 March 2014
Now aged 90, I commenced public relations practice in 1947 on my return from service with the Royal Marine Commandos. I am the only Founding Father of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and International Public Relations Association still alive. At the close of my 66-year-long career I wish to record my professional beliefs in the hope that, aided by academics and educators, my assumptions and assertions may be debated from time to time by younger entrants to our craft.
I do not believe that “propaganda” for causes and issues or “publicity” for products and services are per se public relations activities, although they might form part of an overall public relations programme; similarly advertising, promotion, press agentry, and communications. I believe there exist extra dimensions to the practice of professional public relations which must be present in almost equal measure before an initiative can be so termed and which grant it societal meaning and community worth. I submit that, in accord with the universally accepted principles of Freedom of Information and Expression, these ingredients are: truth, paramount concern for the public good and genuine dialogue. And real dialogue presupposes that an institution is fully prepared to change its policies and practices in the light of such activity. Information fuelled by effective two-way communications is the currency of dialogue and controversy is the price that we may have to be paid to achieve credibility.
Communication effectiveness can be evaluated and reputation measured. Audience identification and message construction come within our remit as does the maintenance and protection of reputations based upon deeds well presented. In this interdependent world one of our prime responsibilities is to forecast the likely social impact of corporate actions. Our undertaking to our employers and clients regarding confidentiality should extend to include those individuals in the public sphere whom we may consult when considering the advice we tender. In the overall scheme of things the objective of our contribution to society at large is the achievement of a balance between the intentions of the institutions we represent and the legitimate concerns of their community and constituency. The argument we are like lawyers available to either defend or prosecute is untenable.
To assist meaningful dialogue between parties involved we must understand the theories and techniques of consultation, participation, negotiation, empowerment and conflict. We must appreciate the legal and societal dictates of transparency, accountability, and governance.
Substantially, our Founding Fathers shared this vision of the fundamental philosophy governing and values underpinning our vocation. My earnest hope is that future generations of practitioners will share elements of this Credo.
Tim Traverse-Healy OBE, 1st January 2014
Responses can be sent to Tim at: Tim.firstname.lastname@example.org
- You can also find Dr Kevin Moloney’s interview with Tim at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azTesGu3mos