The following article was recently published in Communication Director magazine.
The paradoxes and challenges of the progressive corporate future means it is time to bury, not praise, public relations.
The British Royal Family has veered from public relations triumph (William and Kate Windsor) to public relations disaster (take your pick). Recently, it has been on a high, although Prince Charles, heir to the throne, managed to prick that earlier this year with his comparisons of the Russian president to Adolf Hitler. Charles’ Canadian moment teaches us that not only is it now impossible to control or “manage the message” but also that the end of the age of deference and hierarchies is truly upon us. The British monarch-in-waiting increasingly behaves like a social activist, rather than a regal diplomat. Curiously, that puts him in tune with the real world, which sees through the obvious veneer of “spin” and asks for a return to honesty, in politics and in business, and even, perhaps, in monarchy, too.
During the writing of my book, Trust Me, PR is Dead, a number of blogs started appearing about the “death of” many things. One was from Tom Fletcher, the British ambassador to Lebanon, who subsequently contributed a chapter to the book. In a blog post entitled “Is Diplomacy Dead, Too?” Fletcher wrote: Substitute ‘traditional diplomacy’ for ‘public relations’ and we can see a similar challenge.” “Diplomacy has detached itself from public debate through meaningless platitudes; much of its form (summits, communiques) was designed in 1815 in an age of monarchies and great states; and it has been slow to adjust to the next wave of disruption. Let’s be honest,” Fletcher continued, “we are also, post Snowden, Assange et al, less trusted than we were.”