EDITORIAL: The Pentagon's wartime terminology is surely euphemistic, but it's also very understandable

My colleague Paul Holmes and I agreed that from time to time we would tackle a major issue from different perspectives, in the point-counterpoint tradition. This is the first of our efforts.

My colleague Paul Holmes and I agreed that from time to time we would tackle a major issue from different perspectives, in the point-counterpoint tradition. This is the first of our efforts.

Wartime terminology can certainly ring Orwellian, but what is the alternative? Whether or not you agree with the war, the pragmatist's view is that if it is going to happen, it should be swift and effective. PR professionals know well that choice of language can quickly polarize or unite those exposed to it. An incautious project name can incite ridicule and derision that may distract the media and the rest of the world from what is really going on. "Operation Iraqi Freedom" is certainly calculated, but at least it pays lip service to an ideal that the US may have to ultimately live up to - that the war is not just about protecting America's oil or interests, but also about liberating and aiding an oppressed population. If the mission were dubbed something like "Operation Keep America Driving SUVs," it stands to reason that the expectation of US involvement in a subsequent rebuilding of Iraq would be non-existent. Of course, the actions should match the messaging, as any PR person will tell you. On the other hand, the term "embedded" journalists is truly inspired, denoting a level of access to and understanding of the day-to-day grind that is war. It is that kind of access that can produce outstanding reportage, in the tradition of Ernie Pyle, who was an embedded journalist before the Pentagon ever dreamed the term up, and whose survival was equally linked to the GIs he trailed in Europe and the Pacific (and who ultimately died alongside them). We recoil when public affairs organizations actually seem to forget the fact that there needs to be relative (no, not full) transparency in order to sustain goodwill for the war. Whether we as individuals want goodwill sustained for the war is not the point. The point is that the strategies for trying to achieve that are not entirely off-base. Lack of rankings hinder marketing efforts I received an e-mail this week that highlighted some of problems agencies that are part of holding companies may face as they market themselves without rankings. A major European consumer brand, which is eyeing a joint venture with another major brand, is looking for a firm, and asked me to send them the most up-to-date global rankings that we publish. Granted, this person was seeking billings information, which we do not publish and the Council of PR Firms does not gather. But last year's rankings issue proved a satisfactory, if out of date, response to the request. Size is certainly not important for many of the companies seeking agencies, but there is no point in denying that there are still a fair number of organizations that say, "Get the top 10 PR firms in here," particularly for their global efforts. Sure, maybe everyone can pretty much identify who is on that list without rankings. But the convention of looking to these tables should at least be noted and communicated to the holding companies, who may not recognize the potential impact of the decision.

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