Editorial - PR: from Jesus to Lincoln to Gandhi

It wasn’t hard to find the Greatest Communicator of All Time (see feature p18). Even if two billion followers weren’t enough evidence in their own right, our poll clearly recognized that Jesus Christ understood the value and use of every conceivable communications tool at his fingertips.

It wasn’t hard to find the Greatest Communicator of All Time (see feature p18). Even if two billion followers weren’t enough evidence in their own right, our poll clearly recognized that Jesus Christ understood the value and use of every conceivable communications tool at his fingertips.

It wasn’t hard to find the Greatest Communicator of All Time (see

feature p18). Even if two billion followers weren’t enough evidence in

their own right, our poll clearly recognized that Jesus Christ

understood the value and use of every conceivable communications tool at

his fingertips.



Whether it was the locations he chose, the actions he took, his fondness

for parables and metaphors or even just his mode of transport, he was

the master of PR.



In his brilliant analysis of the history of communication, Paul Simpson

argues that in today’s society, while we busy ourselves worrying about

new technology, the rudiments haven’t changed a bit. ’The key,’ he

writes, ’is to define your objectives, your target audience and your

message, while always assessing the public mood.’



While the media and the public relations industry both seem to unite in

painting PR as a 20th-century phenomenon, it is too easy to fall for a

mythologized view of the past which says that great leaders, like

Abraham Lincoln, were above PR. Lincoln knew the power of PR: eight

favorable press clippings were found in his pocket on the night he was

shot.



With Jesus Christ, the key, of course, was the message, and the way it

was packaged. Christ’s teachings were actually contentious (he was the

Son of God, and following him would lead to eternal life), and his

actions were provocative, but his words whispered a message of love,

kindness and non-violence through the centuries that has retained a

near-universal appeal. His message also inspired many other great

communicators on our list, including Martin Luther King (ranked third

overall) and Mohandas Gandhi (ranked fourth in the 20th century

politics/human rights category).



Of course, the words and message of Jesus Christ have been routinely

used and abused by all manner of kings, dictators, politicians and even

religious institutions over the years. But that demonstrates another

point that is brilliantly made in Simpson’s piece, and that is just how

hard it is to communicate at all.



Challenging, witty and profound, this is an article that every public

relations professional should read and enjoy.



Generic dot-com misses the point



Have we heard the last of publicrelations.com? The domain name, put up

for auction just before Christmas, was expected to bring in a cool

million or so - that is, if you listened to the hype generated by the

folks running the auction. There’s a market for generic names, they

said - just look at the recent price tags on wine.com and autos.com.



But no one bellied up to the bar and made a bid. Why? Because you can’t

drink PR, nor can you drive it. When companies decide they need PR help,

they go to Fleishman or Shandwick (or they ask people who will point

them towards the right agency). What they don’t do is type

publicrelations.com into a browser and pray something good happens. And

anyone clueless enough to do so wouldn’t get in the front door of a PR

agency.



So will the name sell? Well, now that one can get it cheap, perhaps a

top ten agency will buy it and link it to its site. Or maybe a group

like IPREX or Worldcom will snatch it up. But one thing’s for sure -

when you’re in the brand-building business, being generic just doesn’t

do.



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