It doesn’t do to take yourself too seriously in the PR game, although lots of people do. Attend almost any convocation of PR folks and you will hear about the great strides the profession is about to make in being taken more seriously as a management function. The Holy Grail is “a seat at the boardroom table.”
Now, I am the first to say that the deft management of an organizational crisis can burnish the image of the PR department tremendously, but fortunately for everyone concerned, those opportunities don’t come along too often, and only a tiny fraction of practitioners ever get to experience the thrill/terror of wading into catastrophe and walking out the other side mostly intact.
This thought occurred to me as I perused PR Week, the profession’s daily publication, and saw that one of the lead stories concerned the staging of a cornhole tournament in Ohio. First I had to go to Wikipedia to look up cornhole, which sounded vaguely salacious. Turns out it is essentially a beanbag toss. It was in the service of what I am sure is a very worthy charity, but it makes me think of the conversation three Ohio State grads might have at their tenth reunion. One notes that she is a lawyer and has been helping people facing foreclosure keep their homes. Another, a surgical nurse, describes his experience in Doctors Without Borders. And our guy recalls the cornhole tournament he just put on in Cleveland. Something feels a little…off. Still, there is dignity in any job well done, I always say. Apparently, according to PR Week, the cornhole tourney was nonpareil.
A couple of years ago, I was walking by the corner of 42nd Street and Second Avenue, right by the entrance to WPIX –TV. There, resplendent in sombrero and serape, stood Juan Valdez and his donkey, the latter draped with faux bags of coffee beans. It is a testament to the warped perspective I have developed after three decades in PR that this sight did not strike me as odd in the least. Clearly, the Colombian Coffee Growers were in town for a media tour. No biggie. Over the course of my career, I have escorted more than one jackass to a news interview, although, to be honest, none were of the four-footed variety.
At one agency I know, young account executives made their bones by dressing up in a costume and hijacking the Today Show – Al Roker is well known to be a sucker for a talking ketchup bottle. And really, who isn’t?
And who could forget the world’s largest paella, which was staged to promote a brand of dishwashing detergent?
The truth is, these stunts can be very effective in generating buzz in mainstream and new media and sometimes that’s all clients want. It’s the agency’s job to give it to them. I hold in high regard people who conceive of these sometimes wacky ideas and successfully pull them off. But as C-Suite credibility enhancing activities, they are more likely to get us a seat at the dinner table than the boardroom table.
Categories: Random PR Thoughts