Everyone knows PR has an image problem. The million-dollar question: how bad is it?
Tom Hanks inadvertently provided the answer last week during the New York Women in Communications gala held at the Waldorf-Astoria. That actor was there to present his PR rep Leslee Dart with the Matrix Award for PR (link, sub req'd).
Deserving Dart is one of the most powerful celebrity PR pros in New York and Hollywood. What did Hanks say of Dart? He simply said Dart “tells it like it is, she gives you the bad news along with the equally good news with no editorializing.”
Hanks held the candor of Dart, who has advised stars like Jessica Lange, Meryl Streep, Conan O’Brien and movies such as Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed,” as something special. Hanks said Dart “tells you what you need to do. She tells you how stupid you’ve been. ...I have agreed with her 50 percent of the time.”
Far from damaging a professional relationship, Dart’s truthfulness has strengthened ties with Hanks.
Hanks’ depiction of Dart’s honesty begs another question: Isn’t PR supposed to be about truth? Has the business become so jaded that toadyism is an accepted part of the celebrity PR game? Does client boot-licking extend into other categories of like sports? Did PR boot-licking get numbskulls like New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez in even more hot soup?
Are PR sycophants limited to the entertainment realm? This blogger thinks not. PR “yes-men/women” must share responsibility for the financial mess? Strong-willed advisors could have headed off messes at American International Group, Merrill Lynch, Bank of America and Citigroup.
Another worry: Is high-flying President Obama getting unvarnished truth from his advisors, or are some of them trying to curry favor with America’s young leader?
We will find that out fast enough. God, save us.
PR won’t get the respect it thinks it deserves until flatterers are “outed” and truth becomes the boring norm.