by Roger Pynn
On Sunday’s “Face the Nation,” Bob Schieffer had a great commentary on the dysfunction of government in times of stress when all kinds of mush comes out of the mouths of politicians and bureaucrats as they try to describe things they find unpleasant. He was actually referring to a column by Washington Post Opinion Writer Charles Krauthammer.
But the gobbledygook they use is not “PR,” as Schieffer suggested, but rather it is spin … and real public relations people hate that term. Simply, SPIN is not “bad PR,” as Schieffer suggests. It is a four-letter word.
“But government never seems to learn that good public relations never trumps bad policy, and bad PR never defeats good policy. Nixon’s men mounted a massive PR campaign to cover up Watergate. It failed. The good things Nixon did – the opening to China for one – live on with no PR help” said Schieffer.
He means well, but he denigrates the efforts made by so many who believe that as public relations professionals their job is to give clear, honest information to people who need it.
What Richard Nixon did in the Watergate scandal was not “bad PR.” It was an illegal cover-up.
Schieffer and Krauthammer complained that when the U.S. Embassy in Yemen was evacuated because of a terror threat, the State Department referred to it as a “reduction in staff.” They both cried “hogwash.”
And Schieffer was absolutely right when he said, “It never works because people are not stupid.” The majority of people are smart … certainly smart enough to smell SPIN. And hopefully most people understand that well-intentioned efforts to communicate and inform are not related to that four-letter word.
PR is not a four-letter word … nor is news … as long as both are practiced professionally.