Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

It was all much better in my day…

We should all learn from the lessons of the past. That’s been written so many times it is practically a cliche.

I am always interested in discovering about how Public Relations was practised in the past.  I’m sure there’s a lot of knowledge that could be applied today and probably a lot that’s irrelevant.

Bringing together the best traditional PR practices with the latest communications tools and technologies is the responsibility of every PR practitioner.  Whether it’s communicating online via e-mail or using blogs, many new developments can help the PR process become more effective.

Two PR-related stories prompted this ramble.

First of all, Aaron D. Cushman a retired Chicago PR man who started his career in the 1940’s has published a book that’s part handbook and part biography. From the article in Chicago Sun Times is appears Mr. Cushman was first and foremost a publicist.

He bemoans the lack of creativity in PR:

“Many of the young people entering the business today can write, Cushman said, “but there are very few idea people.”

Though he was probably heartened to see Janet’s performance at the superbowl. Ah yes the age old publicity stunt.

And Mr. Cushman isn’t impressed by practitioners today:

Planned or not, a lot of the fun seems to have gone out of the public relations business in the years since Cushman’s exit. Now it’s a more buttoned-down, altogether duller affair filled with rote press releases, and many young practitioners who don’t seem to share Cushman’s zest for the business. Or his professional savvy.

Unfortunately, I don’t get much opportunity to have wildlife attend product launches….

But he does offer some sound advice such as.. “knowing columnists’ styles and deadlines, leveling with editorial contacts, and being scrupulously fair.”

All good right and true in my humble opinion.

Then I discovered a fantastic story in the Tallahassee Democrat on how new technology is influencing PR practices in the legislative process.

“If you’re not using the latest technology and every tool available,” says (Karen) Moore (of Moore Consulting), “then you are short-changing your client.”

Instant communication means lawmakers can be in constant touch with constituents, and lobbyists can see the latest tracking polls.

But for all of the technological advances, there is one constant that remains unchanged and critical to the success of any public-relations campaign, says Gail Stansberry-Ziffer of Ziffer Marketing & Communications.

“I think the human touch is much more important,” says Stansberry-Ziffer, who counts Anheuser-Busch among her firm’s clients. “It’s important to maintain that personal contact with people.”

I think that sums it up nicely. 

Our challenge, ladies and gentlemen, is to take the very best traditional practices of our profession and marry them with new technology that can help us to reach our audience(s) faster and more efficiently. 

There is still room for the PR stunts, creativity, structured analysis, strong writing skills and the art of oration. But today we also have a whole new toolkit to deliver that information. Now that’s good news.

Written by Tom Murphy

February 24, 2004 at 1:45 pm

Posted in General

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