EDITORIAL: In parting, Beers casts light on both the US' PR failing and her successor's biggest challenge

A week before she resigned, citing health reasons, Charlotte Beers told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, "The gap between who we are, how we wish to be seen, and how we are in fact seen, is frighteningly wide."

A week before she resigned, citing health reasons, Charlotte Beers told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, "The gap between who we are, how we wish to be seen, and how we are in fact seen, is frighteningly wide."

Frightening indeed. Many in PR, and also outside the marketing world, criticized Beers' appointment as undersecretary of state responsible for improving the image of the US overseas, believing, perhaps unfairly, that an advertising veteran's efforts would be superficial and, ultimately, unsuccessful. But her assessment of the enormity of the situation is realistic, and there is no sense now that the Bush administration believes that any one initiative - be it focus groups, op-eds, or TV ads extolling the virtues of living Muslim in America - will provide the magic solution. Even if war with Iraq is averted, the problem of America's image overseas will remain. Looking back, Beers' appointment, somewhat controversial as it was, was highly trumpeted in the media. Her permanent replacement has yet to be named at press time, but it is hoped that this time around the focus will be less on the personality of the individual, and more on the nature of the challenge. Some may have grumbled that an advertising executive was chosen for what was widely perceived to be a PR job, but her marketing background made Beers a cynical target all around. Secretary of State Colin Powell remarked to the media that Beers must be good at her job, as she got him to try Uncle Ben's rice, one of her well-known advertising clients. Though meant as a lighthearted comment, it reinforces the faulty perception that the world needs only to see America as the same kind of easily digestible consumable - something inherently benign, and basically good for everyone. The fact is, much of the rest of the world doesn't see it that way. The best top communicator of an organization is ultimately only as good as his or her in-house client. Bush has often been called America's first CEO president. A corporation facing a reputation crisis needs the commitment and consistent messaging of its senior management and CEO in order to effect substantive change. Provided Beers' successor possesses the necessary credentials to execute an intelligent and thoughtful program, the real focus should be on what the executives are doing and how they are communicating the right message to the global audience. PRWeek, MS&L unveil marketing survey PRWeek, in partnership with MS&L, is launching the inaugural Marketing Management Survey. The study will assess attitudes and opinions about the value of PR from the perspective of brand managers and other marketing executives. The importance of understanding this constituency is obvious, as firms have long been telling us that increasingly larger portions of their budgets and briefs fall into the domain of the marketing managers rather than the corporate communicators. The survey also represents a rising trend in PRWeek's coverage, where we continue to look for the stories that will explain how PR fits into the total marketing mix, and how companies and their senior management outside of communications are embracing the capabilities of PR as never before. Please e-mail me at julia.hood@prweek.com for more information about the survey.

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