COMMENT: Editorial - Tough jobs? It's a badge of honor

Despite all his efforts to erase the memory of Monicagate, and even as he makes a desperate last attempt to bring peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis before his presidency comes to an end, it seems that the abiding memory of Bill Clinton's eight-year term will indeed be the public relations fiasco involving 'that woman'.

Despite all his efforts to erase the memory of Monicagate, and even as he makes a desperate last attempt to bring peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis before his presidency comes to an end, it seems that the abiding memory of Bill Clinton's eight-year term will indeed be the public relations fiasco involving 'that woman'.

Despite all his efforts to erase the memory of Monicagate, and even as he makes a desperate last attempt to bring peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis before his presidency comes to an end, it seems that the abiding memory of Bill Clinton's eight-year term will indeed be the public relations fiasco involving 'that woman'.

In the PRWeek poll of the PR Jobs from Hell (see p24), Clinton emerged as the hardest political leader to represent, beating out other top 10 contenders including Al Sharpton, Pat Buchanan, Jessie Helms, Jerry Falwell and Clinton's wife, Hillary.

Why should Bill Clinton emerge as the toughest political leader to represent, PR-wise? With the election of the next president right around the corner, it's clearly not his office that brings about such fear and foreboding.

(Interestingly, George W. Bush was 7th on the list, and Al Gore didn't even figure in the top 10.)

It's the unfailing memory of his lies. As one respondent put it, 'anyone who lies' is going to be tough, and Clinton's protracted 'lie' will live long in the memory.

But another respondent provides an interesting contrasting viewpoint.

'We're not magicians. There has to be a commitment from the person or company we represent to do something right. Any good reporter will see through the facade otherwise.'

Clinton has done plenty right. Ignoring the ignominy and humiliation of his personal life, he has refused to shrink behind his office desk during the past two years, pursuing a full agenda of policy directives, domestic and foreign - with close shepherding by his most recent press secretary Joe Lockhart. But lies are hard to live down.

Other hellish tasks? Well, no surprises for guessing the obvious candidates: Philip Morris, the NRA, Firestone and, of course, Mike Tyson.

Like all such lists, PR Jobs from Hell is a great read. But it also raises some serious questions for the industry. Should PR executives be prepared to promote or defend what others find indefensible? Where do you draw the line between personal and professional morality? And what damage is done to the credibility of the industry?

To those whose dubious distinction it was to be selected, the title is in many cases a badge to be worn with pride. To outsiders, on the other hand, it is often astonishing that there's anybody prepared to take on these jobs. Some insiders won't, either. They're all entitled to their view. But putting forward the acceptable face of tobacco, guns, faulty tires or even convicted rapists, is, when all is said and done, a matter of personal conscience.

Just as any defendant is entitled to a lawyer, any individual, corporate entity or representative body, must be allowed to make their case - however distasteful others might find it. Indeed, you could argue that in the current climate, where the media have great power and rather less responsibility, it's all the more important.

PR practitioners who only ever act for the good guys should ask themselves whether they're apologists rather than ambassadors for the profession.

After all, lawyers who defends rapists or murderers are doing their job.

The same standards should apply to the PR industry.





Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in