Monday, September 19, 2005

Truth, Lies and PR

Bob Bly tossed this Molotov cocktail into his blog and asked PR practitioners to comment:
In her new book Bait and Switch, Barbara Ehrenreich writes: "PR is really journalism's evil twin.... Whereas a journalist seeks the truth, a PR person may be called upon to disguise it or even to advance an untruth," says Ehrenreich. "If your employer, a pharmaceutical company, claims its new drug cures both cancer and erectile dysfunction, your job is to promote it, not to investigate the ground for these claims."
I suppose Ms. Ehrenreich never heard of Yellow journalism or its PC descendant, "media bias." I already commented about truth in journalism, so I'll leave it at that.

As for PR, direct marketing and lies, read Malcolm Gladwell's article on Spin.

Then read Seth Godin's book All Marketers Are Liars : The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World. But start with the back cover:
"Marketers aren't really liars. I was lying when I named this book.... They are just storytellers. It's the consumers who are liars. As consumers, we lie to ourselves every day.... Successful marketers are just the providers of stories that consumers choose to believe."
Here's the but... and it's a big one: If the storyteller doesn't deliver... if the product doesn't satisfy... then the spell is broken. And then the story really is just a lie.

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