Companies spend a fortune on PR to bolster their images and deal with the “reptiles” of the press yet much of the PR activity has zero impact on their client’s public profile, according to the “Bartleby” columnist for The Economist.
In his July 3 "The Perils of PR" broadside, Bartleby wrote that once a company employs PR people, it can be difficult to stop. “In a variant of Parkinson’s law, PR expands to fill the budget available.”
The columnist likened the dealings of PR people with journalists as a kind of “groundhog day.” A PR person sends an email to a reporter, follows up to check on whether she received it, calls to make sure that she is aware of the email’s existence and then sends another email about the same client. And the process begins anew.
Bartleby believes there are three types of senior level people.
The interventionist pontificates as if he is on the board of the client company. “Friendly on the surface, these people tend to get patronizing or hostile if a journalist asks an uncomfortable question.” An unfriendly piece is followed up with an angry phone call.
The second PR type “provides a minimum amount of information as part of a deliberate policy to keep clients out of the headlines." They maintain a Trappist-silence in meetings, content only to take notes and enjoy expensive lunches while the client talks.
The third group supplies useful facts about a company when asked, gives an accurate take on market rumor and arrange interviews with CEOs. “These helpful PR people are scattered across the corporate sector. It is virtually impossible to predict where they will be found.”
Bartleby concedes that “however irritating PR people can be, they often are one of the only conduits for information about a company.”
The columnist repurposes John Wanamaker’s famous quote about advertising: “three quarters of the money that I spend on PR is wasted—the problem is knowing which three quarters.”
Republican Senators take aim at Al Jazeera’s decision to ignore the Justice Department’s determination that it must register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
On Sept. 14, 2020, the Justice Dept. ruled that AJ+, a subsidiary of Al Jazeera Media Network must register under FARA because it engages in political activity on behalf of Qatar’s government and is designed to “influence American perceptions” of “public policy.”
In their July 2 letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, the five GOP Senators charge that AJ+ “has willfully ignored the DOJ mandate” and continues to operate in the US in violation of the law.
Rubbing salt into the wound, AJMN, which is funded by Qatar’s government, has launched a new media platform, “Rightly,” that also hasn’t registered with the Justice Dept.
Sens. Chuck Grassley (IA), Marco Rubio (FL), Tom Cotton (AK), Todd Young (IN) and Ted Cruz (TX) demand to know what steps Garland is taking to enforce compliance with FARA for AJMN.
They want an answer by July 16.
Jul. 7, 2021, by Joe Honick
As a frequent critic of too much I see and have seen in the PR field, and as a longtime fan of The Economist, I can only deduce this columnist either got a lousy story pitch from someone that would not feature the columnist, or he could not figure what to write for t his issue. Actually, one of my major critics is how PR firms managed to "launder" the reputations of so many American and other corporations financial folks and universities who slept with Hitler until Pearl Harbor "suggested" they pick another direction. Had it not been for effective PR since WWll, the wholse shameful but powerful job done both before and after would never have happened.
Fact: well paid and effective PR has cleaned up more messes for questionable reasons than the columnist would even want to read evidence about.
There is a reason why Jack started this publication those many years ago.