Quizzes! First, George W. Bush ’flunks’ a pop quiz by a Boston reporter, being unable to provide the names of four leaders of obscure countries and one rebel faction. A pushover - Americans don’t read about Taiwan or Pakistan, and learn about India only when a Gandhi is involved. And do they read about Chechnya? When there’s a war on, to be sure, but not to learn the name of the rebel leader.
Quizzes! First, George W. Bush ’flunks’ a pop quiz by a Boston
reporter, being unable to provide the names of four leaders of obscure
countries and one rebel faction. A pushover - Americans don’t read about
Taiwan or Pakistan, and learn about India only when a Gandhi is
involved. And do they read about Chechnya? When there’s a war on, to be
sure, but not to learn the name of the rebel leader.
Besides, Governor Bush is running not only a major state, but also a (so
far) successful presidential campaign, and most certainly has a team of
foreign policy wonks and advisors who can keep him supplied with news
about these people if he needs to know their names.
But a different matter this week. This publication sprang a 15-question
quiz on 10 leading PR executives, some from agencies and some from the
corporate world. The questions weren’t about heads of state, either, but
related - more or less - to PR. Two sought presidential press
secretaries, two related to PR history, two sought the identity of PR
techniques, and the rest - except for one asking the winner of last
year’s Academy Award movie - concerned the current state of PR and
The answers showed a serious lack of knowledge on the part of the
Six knew Shakespeare in Love, only four knew that Sigmund Freud was the
uncle of recently deceased PR pioneer Edward Bernays, four knew who was
Richard Nixon’s press secretary and who is currently Bill Clinton’s
press secretary and only two knew TV Guide was the US magazine
generating the most revenue.
Now this is serious. These folks are on the information front lines.
They probably don’t have, or shouldn’t need, experts to tell them what
magazines make the most money or who was Richard Nixon’s press secretary
(although I fancy the CEO who said he thought it was ’William Safire, or
someone like him’).
’A salesman,’ Arthur Miller told us 50 years ago, ’has got to dream,
boy - it goes with the territory.’ Well, I say a PR executive ’has got
to read; damn little else goes with the territory.’ If I had the
opportunity to advise youngsters in this business (and occasionally I
do), I would tell them to study economics, mathematics, history and
English literature and, above all, to read. Textbooks, novels, the
comics, ads, billboards, political literature - whatever is in front of
your vision. You are in the word business and the idea business; watch
popular culture on TV, keep up with your countrymen, read at least one
newspaper a day and at least one literate magazine a week.
Then, when PRWeek calls, you’ll be at the head of the class.