COMMENT: Editorial - Is the golden era of PR stunts over?

Looking back on the life of publicity maven Jim Moran (see Analysis, p13), one question immediately comes to mind: is the golden era of publicity stunts over?

Looking back on the life of publicity maven Jim Moran (see Analysis, p13), one question immediately comes to mind: is the golden era of publicity stunts over?

Looking back on the life of publicity maven Jim Moran (see

Analysis, p13), one question immediately comes to mind: is the golden

era of publicity stunts over?



Moran, who died in October, mastered the art of chutzpah. Unfortunately,

the wit and creative flair he brought to the profession - such as

selling a refrigerator to an Eskimo, literally changing horses midstream

to illustrate a political point - seem to be in short supply today.



Granted, it’s probably unfair to expect more than a handful of such

larger-than-life figures in every century. What’s more troubling,

however, is that few PR pros seem to practice their craft with the

brashness and sheer joy of Moran.



Equally sad is the reality that few members of the younger generation of

PR pros even know who Moran is. Sure, they probably heard about a few of

his more gimmicky stunts during their agency’s equivalent of basic

training, but it’s clear that the name Jim Moran doesn’t hold the weight

of Edward Bernays or even some of the current top agency chiefs.



Is there a place for Moran in today’s PR climate? Howard Rubenstein - no

stranger himself to generating publicity - claims that ’Moran’s shtick

is still being used.’ And several stunts, such as Beyond.com’s CEO

showing up on CNBC clad only in boxers, show a tad more brazenness than

we’ve come to expect.



But these plays are few and far between. While PR pros are rightly

thrilled about finally being taken seriously as strategists, there’s no

reason why this newfound respect can’t coexist with the gusto of the

publicity stunt. The profession should make a point of passing Moran’s

legacy on to younger generations and, indeed, celebrating it.





DON’T BURN BRIDGES IN THIS PR BOOM



Ten years ago, if you had told PR pros that they would literally be

fighting clients off with a stick, you probably would have been

committed to an institution for deranged marketing execs. Well, times

have changed. Now, the industry finds itself in the ironic position of

offering tips to potential clients on how best to court a PR agency (See

PR Technique, p28).



That said, the profession would be wise to remember the days when it was

on the other side of the fence. A brash

’we-don’t-even-owe-you-the-courtesy-of-a-return-call’ attitude is not

likely to enrich the industry’s standing among the public at large, nor

is the open scoffing - reportedly practiced by at least one Silicon

Valley hotshot - at those clients who are thought to be ’beneath’ a

given firm. And this doesn’t even begin to mention the slings and arrows

of hi-tech journalists (pesky lads, those) from tech-centric

publications like Soft-letter and Red Herring, who have already set

their sights on what they perceive to be a power-mad and distasteful

profession.



Business is good, and it’s getting better. Firms who are turning away

tens of potential clients per month, though, should be prepared for the

possibility - however remote it may now seem - that tomorrow it could

all be gone. Respecting the plight of would-be clients will keep the PR

profession on track to become one of the most respected marketing

disciplines



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