So here I am again staring at another blank piece of paper. Struggling to drive my grey matter to execute some intellectual gymnastics. I examine my scrawled notes balancing a reference book on my knee. As I begin to type and the juices start to flow, a bloody email pings up in the corner of my screen. I am immediately distracted, not least because it has been sent from a highly entertaining old mate with a wicked sense of fun. Phil spends too much time contemplating the modern and confusing public relations hemisphere.
It’s a breathless email:
“Shit Borkie take a look at Uclemmoxs PR’s new site; what an ugly bunch of fcukwits. They all need to visit Dr Victor and get a dose of botox. After seeing the pictures on the site I’ve decided I am in favour of abortion in cases of incest. Phil has spent too much time annotating each photo. One not so flattering has been captioned “She’s like Taco Bell. When people see her, they run for the border”. Another has been anointed by Phil’s juvenile wit “She’s so ugly they used to put a roast beef joint in her lap so the dog would play with her”. His email rambles on “You know the game you play in boring meetings where you think about who around the board table you might shag if you were shipwrecked on a desert island. Well click on this link and tell me, who from this bunch of uglies would you touch with a barge pole!”
I click on the link and ponder. After looking at the various smiling geeks accepting awards dressed in hired dinner jackets, I had to agree. The “clip-on” bow tie Tweenies were certainly last in line when the Omnipotent One handed out looks. Well you don’t have to look like an Adonis to practice PR, but some how the energy of so many corporate PR websites reflects those people that transmit the ordinary, using borrowed language that reeks of unoriginal copy.
You see that’s the problem; the history of PR underlines its contemporary failings. The industry has been peerless in selling half-eaten salami on rye sandwiches. Potential new business has always been skilfully wooed by absolutely fabulous promises, but after the aspirin has taken effect, the size of the hangover is measured in squandered cash that has been invested in charlatans, happier to slap each other’s backs at industry awards than meeting the promises made at pitches. A sort of diarrhoea of the mouth; constipation of the idea.
Ruthless tactics to neuter the opposition have always been prevalent and it seems that there is a new age dawning of dirty tricks to crack the masque. After all, so many companies are being judged by the bold promises made on their sites. The venerable and the lazy procurement person that holds sway, actually believes the guff that gushes out of these sewers.
In truth, there is nothing wrong with rivalry and it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. I love the Tallulah Bankhead tale that illustrates her desire to stay on top. A fellow actress once said of Miss Bankhead: “She’s not so great. I can upstage her any time”. “Darling,” retorted Tallulah, “I can upstage you without even being onstage”.
At the next performance, she set out to prove her point. In one scene, while the other actress was engaged in a long telephone conversation, Tallulah had to put down the champagne glass from which she had been drinking and make her exit upstage. That evening, she carefully placed the half full glass in a precarious position at the edge of the table, half on and half off. The audience gasped, their attention riveted to the glass, and the other actress was totally ignored. She later discovered that Miss Bankhead had surreptitiously stuck a piece of adhesive tape on the bottom of the glass to ensure the success of her moment of triumph
It’s all a game of smoke and mirrors, but remember the cult of Tallulah Bankhead was developed by the mighty Harry Reichenbach. I think that her legend lives on today because of Harry’s guile and her willingness to take his advice. Perhaps a few more adventurous brands should listen to appropriate council in the twenty first century.