'Flack' actually flattering

Full confession: I am a disciple of Flackism.

Full confession: I am a disciple of Flackism.

Does that make me renegade - a traitor to the noble profession of PR? No, it makes me a realist. I do not feel at all slighted when a columnist friend, or even an adversarial hack, calls me a "flack."

I know that no busy reporter is going to use "PR practitioner" to describe me when a handy shorthand term like "flack" will do. Do you?

If you absolutely cannot abide the word, don't rail and rant when you see it in print. Thank the user, and send him or her a little note explaining- with as much humor as you can muster - how the term "flack" originated and how it's actually pretty flattering to be considered as good as Gene Flack was.

That presents a problem, doesn't it? You don't know who Gene Flack was? Well, Gene was such an ace at promoting films in the '20s and '30s that Variety magazine began saluting his skills by using "flacking" instead of "publicizing."

Publicizing is getting publicity for a client. Being a publicist. That's what it was all about then because the term "public relations" was still a germ of an idea at best, being bandied about by the likes of Ivy Lee and Ed Bernays, whom you worship from afar as the founders of PR. Gene Flack seems to have been so good at it that, if with us today, he would probably have morphed into the head of one of LA's or New York's major PR shops.

Some reporters assume "flack" is the same as "flak." The latter, you can explain,
was the deadly barrage fired by German anti-aircraft guns in World War II. No relation at all to hard-working PR people like Gene Flack.

Now, knowing all that, do you really see a need to mix it up with anyone because you may feel "insulted" by being called a flack?

Wes Pedersen, principal
Wes Pedersen Communications
Washington, DC

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