|February 12, 2013|
|Chomsky Hits Nerve on PR's Irrationality|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|The charge by linguist/philosopher Noam Chomsky that advertising and PR are irrational and emotional rather than informative and that they undermine democracy touched off 20 postings on this website totaling more than 1,700 words.|
The alleged irrationality of PR is a matter of concern to thoughtful PR people.
Chomsky considers advertising and PR all of one piece and there is no doubt a close connection between the two.
The 46 commercials on the Super Bowl are good examples of frenetic, nearly mindless activities in support of various products. New York Times ad columnist Stuart Elliott said the “dominant types” were
“emotional and humorous.”
Many of them are linked in this Feb. 4 column by Elliott: http://tinyurl.com/amyx622.
For sheer brainless hyper-activity it’s hard to beat the Coke commercial which has showgirls with headfeathers on a bus racing with men on motorcycles and horses towards a giant Coke bottle.
The theme in this and the other commercials is that the products involved are so wonderful that viewers ought to be dumbstruck.
Sugar Is Problem for Coke, Pepsi
Hyper-activity, including someone suspended and then dropped from a ceiling, dominates a commercial for Pepsi Next which has “60% less sugar.”
Sugar content is an issue for both Coke and Pepsi, whose regular 12-ounce containers have nine and ten teaspoons of sugar, respectively.
Nutritionists ask, “Would you put six teaspoons of sugar in an 8- oz. cup of coffee?” Sodas and beer are only tolerable ice cold when taste buds are numbed.
Coke and Pepsi do a lot of community service PR but if they were really interested in providing information they would put prominently on the front of their products that nine and ten teaspoons of sugar are involved. The containers say “140 calories” for Coke and “150 calories” for Pepsi in small type but most people don’t know what that means in terms of sugar.
Coke/Pepsi and others are fighting New York Mayor Bloomberg’s bid to limit the size of sugary drinks. One target is the “Super Big Gulp” sold by 7-Eleven that has 44 oz. of soda.
A current Pepsi flap involves its sponsorship of a conference for women grads April 19-20 in D.C. that includes a talk by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Grad Michele Simon said she was “disgusted” that Yale is associating itself “with this threat to public health.”
PR Keeps People Uninformed -- Chomsky
One of Chomsky’s charges is that PR “keeps the mass of the population uninformed, marginalized.”
Numerous examples of that exist at PR Society of America where members have yet to learn anything about the afternoon of “unlimited” discussions held at the Oct. 13, 2012 Assembly. Senior members have described the Assembly as the “most useless ever.”
The Society goes to great lengths to block information flow and coverage by the press (reporters were banned from the last two Assemblies) but it can’t hide tax returns that show the top four staffers had pay/benefits of $996,668 in 2011; legal bills totaled $558,264 in the past eight years, and spending on “ethics” was $1,406 in 2011 and $2,649 in 2010. Travel/meals/hotels for leaders/staff cost a record $717,478 in 2000 when the entire board went to London for four days. The board then canceled the 2000 members’ directory, claiming it was too expensive to print and mail. Accredited members, the only ones allowed to hold national office since the 1970s, lost $2.9M on the program from 1986-2002.
Where Is the Logic in Code Enforcement?
We would like to know where is the logic in the toothless Code of Ethics that was passed in 2000?
As described by PR Prof. Kathy Fitzpatrick of Quinnipiac University, a member of the Board of Ethics who helped revise the Code, the Society shifted from trying to enforce ethical standards to trying to “inspire” members to behave ethically.
Imagine traffic cops handing out medals to those who obey the speed limit in hopes that speeders would mend their ways.
Inspiration isn’t working at the Society itself where there are numerous wrongful practices including blocking rank-and-file members from knowing who is in the Assembly, what they say, or how they vote (when they are allowed to vote on anything, which was not the case in 2012).
Also irrational is that the Society gave $50,554 to the Ethics Resource Center in 1999-2002 to probe the 20,266 members on their views on enforcement and then ignored the finding that 90% of the respondents favored an enforceable code.
Career Fair in Atlanta Lacks Logic
The Society’s “Real World” career day in Atlanta Feb. 22 sounds promising but not if you look at the program.
Leadoff speaker Jodie Charlop of Potential Matters
The Potentialmatters.com website says Charlop is an experienced “executive coach” with a background in PR. She helps recent grads but her main audience is experienced practitioners.
She will urge the students to develop consistent “brands.” But any student majoring in PR or communications is already a damaged brand to many employers who will wonder why classical subjects like science, economics, history, etc., were not taken up. Students will be seen as going to a fine restaurant but only ordering dessert. Our advice would be for students to describe their majors as “liberal arts.”
The presentation by Coke PR senior manager Kate Hartman on Coke PR at the 2012 Olympics has little to do with students who need jobs and internships. Society chair Mickey Nall of Ogilvy PR has said he only looks at resumes with at least two internships. Nall himself is talking about younger and older people working together, a topic not directly related to jobs/internships.
Atlanta Firm Nailed on Intern Pay Abuse
What is needed is a panel on the ins, outs and legalities of internships.
There are many abuses in this arrangement that lets colleges charge students for credits by working at companies for little or no pay. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the student must benefit and there must be no immediate benefit to the employer (whose operations may actually be impeded). Interns may not replace regular workers.
Amanda Brown-Olmstead & Assocs. of Atlanta, had to pay $31,520 to 54 “interns” who worked at the firm from 1992-94 after an investigation by the U.S. Dept. of Labor. It found that only two of the 54 were in school and that clients were billed for time unpaid “interns” spent working on projects such as writing news releases, doing research and calling reporters.
Amanda Brown-Olmstead, who was chair of the Counselors Academy in 1995, said the firm only charged clients for expenses and that the “interns” were housewives who wanted to return to the market, widows, the early-retired and others. She did a survey that found unpaid internships were common in PR (24 respondents reported unpaid internships while 14 reported paid).
Diana Kim of Bridge Global Strategies, New York, has written advice on how to look for an internship that should be among materials distributed.
No Literature Table; Conflict Looms
However, chapter president Alicia Thompson of Popeyes has told us there will be no literature table. Our offer of ten free O’Dwyer’s Directory of PR Firms and 12 magazine issues for the panel on PR special practice areas has been rejected.
There is a conflict of interest between student aims and those of the panelists. PR practitioners have told us PR grads and near grads should approach businesses directly and offer to help with communications tasks, explaining that they need such internships as door-openers.
However, “Real World” panelists from Ogilvy, Ketchum, Kellen, Jackson Spalding and Arketi Group are not likely to be overjoyed at students flooding into business areas offering to work free for companies that may be their clients.
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