INSIDE THE BELTWAY: There’s a thin line between political consultant and PR pro. Why aren’t more firms crossing it?

Both President Clinton and Vice President Gore (and their ladies) were in attendance at political consultant Bob Squier’s funeral this month at the National Cathedral. President Clinton delivered the eulogy to a large and influential assemblage, studded with just about every network or newspaper star one could imagine. The funeral was even postponed until after the New Hampshire primary so reporters on the campaign trail could attend, along with Squier’s other friends and admirers.

Both President Clinton and Vice President Gore (and their ladies) were in attendance at political consultant Bob Squier’s funeral this month at the National Cathedral. President Clinton delivered the eulogy to a large and influential assemblage, studded with just about every network or newspaper star one could imagine. The funeral was even postponed until after the New Hampshire primary so reporters on the campaign trail could attend, along with Squier’s other friends and admirers.

Both President Clinton and Vice President Gore (and their ladies)

were in attendance at political consultant Bob Squier’s funeral this

month at the National Cathedral. President Clinton delivered the eulogy

to a large and influential assemblage, studded with just about every

network or newspaper star one could imagine. The funeral was even

postponed until after the New Hampshire primary so reporters on the

campaign trail could attend, along with Squier’s other friends and

admirers.



Exceptional? Sure. Squier was, to be sure, the most loyal, innovative

and talented practitioner in his field. But his field was only that of

political consultant; he crafted messages, detected hidden ’issues,’

developed ’opposition research,’ advised, counseled and even consoled

candidates - incumbents and challengers alike - and created, drafted and

directed some of the most compelling political television commercials

ever made.



His is a field often scorned. Indeed, the inarticulate argument in

support of campaign finance reform claims that the field itself will be

drastically reduced once the influence of money in politics is similarly

diminished.



But then, why are those people so highly prized and generally respected

- even celebrated? More to the point, why don’t public relations firms

get into this business, or at least acquire some of the better known

political firms?



It seems surprising that in today’s public relations business, no large

influential firm has gotten involved in political campaigns. After

hours, on leave, on our own time, many public relations pros offer

advice and assistance. But no candidate has ever hired a

Burson-Marsteller, a Fleishman-Hillard, a Hill & Knowlton or any other

national (or even local) public relations firm for a political race.



It would seem easy for PR folks - many with political backgrounds as

press secretaries, communications directors, chiefs of staff and issue

consultants - to apply the techniques of the business, such as message

development, polling, focus groups and media training, which have worked

so well with clients in business and industry, to the still-nascent

field of political combat. Yet none has taken the step.



One explanation is fairly simple to offer - and understand. Part of the

business of public relations - particularly in Washington - is

lobbying.



And as Robert Gray once remarked, ’It’s increasingly difficult to lobby

some Senator you’ve just been paid publicly to defeat.’



Perhaps the hidden reason for the lack of PR/political consultancy

mergers is this: political consultants rank even lower in public esteem

right now than we do. But, come to think of it, would the president and

vice president ever come to the funeral of a PR executive?



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.