4,256 hits has me thinking of credibility and “PR”

I started thinking about it when this blog passed 3,000 visits on October 9th. I thought about it more when I wrote my “30 Days” post on the 11th and watched the clicker hit 3,300.

pete1.jpgWhat’s the next milestone for ToughSledding? 5000 hits? 10,000 hits? Or should I be more concerned with building comments and making this spot a real conversation? Haven’t done a good job of that, to be sure.

The answer came to me tonight while watching game 7 of the NLCS and watching the blog approach 4256 hits — the all-time hits record set by my baseball hero, Pete Rose.

If you love baseball, you have to love the way Pete Rose played it. As a Pirates fan, I hated this guy. As a baseball fan I worshiped him.
But all too often our heroes let us down. Pete did it by letting his gambling addiction interfere with his professional obligations. As a result, he may never see the hall-of-fame recognition his on-field performance had guaranteed him.

Pete’s fall from grace got me thinking about credibility, and the central place it holds in this business of public relations. Despite all of his accomplishments and the adoration they earned him, it took Pete just one big misstep to destroy it all. Poof! Gone forever.

Then I thought about the Edelman-Walmart fiasco of last week and hbanner_logo.gifow it has me questioning that firm’s integrity, despite Edelman‘s leadership in social media and the whole “transparency” discussion. There IS a difference, of course. Edelman fessed up. Pete did not. Edelman will right the ship. Pete is still foundering in denial. But both lost credibility, and there’s no denying that.

Pete’s fall also has me reflecting on my first boss and mentor, Tony Franco — a guy who lost his seat as national president of PRSA in 1986 over one mindless stock trade. That trade, apparently basedprsa.gif on inside information, made Tony the target of an SEC inquiry, and it went downhill from there. Tony avoided prosecution, but he lost his professional reputation, and the leadership of PRSA.

As a public relations educator, I view these case studies as “lessons,” and I share them with my students. But I had teachers, too. As a 20something PR professional coming into the business, I learned more “big” lessons from Tony Franco than any other mentor before or since. I’ll forever owe him for what he gave me almost 30 years ago.

But I’m also forever haunted by how my heroes, Tony and Pete, disappointed us all. The lesson I learned couldn’t be more clear: Credibility is everything in this business, and for that matter, it’s everything in life.

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