I have nothing to say, but I’ll say it anyway — in the context of public relations, naturally

Some 3 weeks have passed since my last post, and daily readership is holding fairly steady. What’s up with that? Someday, when I figure out the blogosphere, I’ll tell you all about it. Until then, I’ve decided to break the silence with a mishmash of PR-related topics. Sort of.

Eye of the Tiger

David Brooks’ column this week discusses the mental toughness of Tiger Woods. Tiger’s dad began teaching the kid to focus at an early age, and clearly it has paid off. Nike’s ad, which ran during the U.S. Open this week, captures Earl Woods saying…”Tiger, I promise you that you’ll never meet another person as tough as you in your entire life.”

I hate golf, and almost never watch it. But I set aside my chores Monday afternoon to catch the last three holes of the playoff. I did it mostly to root for another old guy from Western Pa., Rocco Mediate. I watched, and I wondered: Do you think Rocco is a multitasker with a Blackberry? Do you suppose his computer pings him each time an email arrives? Does Tiger Twitter between holes? And how often does he check his Facebook page?

Maybe it’s the unfocused nature of my own life that prompts me to pose these questions. I don’t worship jocks, but I do admire the mental discipline of folks like Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate. When was the last time you set aside everything for 4 or 5 hours to concentrate on doing one thing exceptionally well?

Surprises suck

Unless the word “pleasant” accompanies it, a surprise in PR tends to be bad news. I read of two unpleasant surprises while scanning the news last Friday.

Surprise No. 1: Where’s my tree, dude? Duke Energy made the front page in Cincinnati for its policy of felling any tree that might threaten power lines and disrupt the flow of electricity. The corporate mandate doesn’t sit well with those living adjacent to the lines, and they especially don’t appreciate Duke’s “cut now, answer questions later” approach. One resident who lost 15 mature trees from his property learned that Duke Energy bears no responsibility for the $2,200 cost of stump removal.

Let’s be fair. Just five years ago the utilities were pilloried for neglecting line maintenance – neglect that led to the great blackout of 2003. Congress called for electric companies to fix the problem, and they have responded. But isn’t there a better way? The policy of “cut and run” is bad community relations, and the PR staffs should be speaking for those who live in the path of the chainsaws. A little dialog may help the company avoid negative editorials like this one.

Surprise No. 2: Your friend is dead. Ha, ha! Just kidding! I’m a big fan of infusing drama into our our messages. Makes them memorable, you know. But some folks in California think CHP and El Camino High School went a bit far when they faked the drunk-driving deaths of several classmates in an effort to dramatize this social problem. For details, read the story in SFGate, then ask yourself where the PR people were this time.

Yes, it is the job of public relations to develop creative campaigns that arrest the attention of our stakeholders. But it’s also our job to look management straight in the eye and ask: Have you lost your f#@*ing minds? At El Camino High School, it appears they have.

But some in California are getting it right

PR pros everywhere should celebrate with the gay and lesbian couples getting hitched in California this week. Know why? Because public relations flourishes in an environment that respects freedom of choice. It thrives when civil liberty overpowers narrow-mindedness.

Loyal readers know that I don’t discuss politics on this blog, but this isn’t a political issue. Same-sex marriage is a human rights issue. The good guys are winning this round — at least on the Left Coast. And yes, I’m the same guy who carries an NRA card. Don’t try to figure me out, OK?

An online social network for PR students?

Yep, and it calls for a big round of applause for Auburn’s Robert French, who this past spring founded “PR Open Mic,” a social network for PR students and faculty. I’ve had little time to spend at the site since signing on as “Member No. 301,” but plan to explore it in greater detail this summer. If you care about the profession and PR education, take advantage of the platform Robert has created for all of us. You can become member No. 1291. I’m sure Tiger Woods would urge you to “just do it.”

8 Responses to I have nothing to say, but I’ll say it anyway — in the context of public relations, naturally

  1. Mike Keliher says:

    People who support the NRA — or, at least, gun owners’ rights in general — AND same-sex marriages aren’t some inexplicable political anomaly, Bill. In many of those cases, we’re called libertarians.

    Thank [whatever deity one prefers or simply “goodness”] American politics isn’t *completely* a simple “us vs. them,” two-sided argument, right?

  2. Bill Sledzik says:

    Mike,

    If I am a libertarian, does this mean I can go to California and marry another libertarian? What a country, eh?

  3. Judy Gombita says:

    Hey, has your country decided to co-opt our “eh?” What’s wrong with, “Yo, what a country!”

    Kudos to Kalifornia for this move. In years past, many American same-sex couples would visit Toronto (in particular this coming week), specifically to get married. Now they can just come and enjoy Pride Week: http://www.pridetoronto.com/Festival_Overview.php

  4. Bill Sledzik says:

    After spending 30+ of my 55 years on the North Coast, it’s bound to rub off. Maybe it’s a side effect of all that OV I drank in Buffalo, eh?

  5. Rob Jewell says:

    Welcome back. Even when you claim to have nothing to say — you still say more than most.

  6. El Camino High? Is that down the road from Gremlin Academy and Pinto Prep? And when did Ponch take up PR?

    Ah, how I’ve missed the blogosphere…

  7. E. Wagner says:

    Now you see, you’ve posted another comment that I’ve connected with:

    You made a reference to “narrow mindedness,” which in this case, you’re probably referring to me. Honestly, I don’t have a problem with gay people having legally-recognized relationships that offer them the same benefits as man/woman relationships. I just want “marriage” to describe what my wife and I have together. To deal with the unexplained emotional meltdowns and other irrational behavior sometimes characteristic of the fairer sex, a man must possess great mental and emotional strength. A man also has to consume more alcohol to understand a woman than he would require to understand his fellow man.

    Seriously though, do I think what my wife and I have is better or worse that what a gay couple would have? No. I guess I’m just a sucker for tradition.

    And if you’re saying I and others like me are narrow-minded, I don’t take offense. I like that you have the stugots to say it and that’s why I read your blog. I know I’ll get an honest opinion and not a bunch of.. well, you know.

    I know the topic of gay marriage itself wasn’t your main subject, but the “narrow mindedness” reference got my attention. It seems to me that, in almost all communication these days, public and private, the verbal blunt force is lacking. When it does, I think the message suffers and so does the audience.

    My $.02.

    Keep stirring the pot.

  8. Bill Sledzik says:

    Eric,

    Contrary opinions are always welcome here, but I don’t think we’re very far apart on this issue, as we both believe that people should be allowed the pursuit of happiness, so long as that pursuit doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. I don’t believe gay marriage harms anyone, though it does assault the “traditional” notion of family — and to me that’s not a bad thing. I believe it’s OK to challenge anything and everything. I simply can’t find a logical or moral reason to oppose two folks who love one another getting together. It doesn’t affect me one bit, and it affects them a great deal.

    The difference between “marriage” and “civil union” is a semantic one — at least in a secular society like the one we (supposedly) have here in the good old U-S of A.. But I worry that excluding gays and lesbians from the benefit of “marriage” (whatever that benefit vs. “civil union” may be) relegates these folks to second-class citizenship. I’m not sure what this accomplishes for society other than — and you say — to preserve “tradition.”

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