Give ’em the old Razzle Dazzle

•December 9, 2009 • Leave a Comment

For any musical fans out there, you will notice that this line is taken directly from the musical “Chicago“. The term “razzle dazzle” basically means to blind someone with embellishments, so they never really see that you don’t know what you’re talking about. A specific part of the lyrics is as follows:

What if your hinges all are rusting?
What if, in fact, you’re just disgusting?
Razzle dazzle ’em, and they’ll never catch wise!

Richard Gere stars as Billy Flynn in Chicago... He's the Ultimate Razzle Dazzler

I know at this point you are probably all thinking “Ok, Emily’s lost it, she’s singing a song from a musical in which wives kill their husbands,” but I swear, I have a point. This whole “razzle dazzle ’em” technique is a valid, and often used, technique in the public relations industry. I don’t say this to be cruel, it is just a fact of the business. In fact, I’d be surprised if every single corporation and organization out there hasn’t turned to the “razzle dazzle” technique a few times.

Some specific examples of razzle dazzling people when it comes to public relations is the use, or arguably the overuse, of pictures, links, video clips, related articles, what have you when just trying to tell a simple story. Sometimes I find myself trying to read through a simple news release or statement on an organization’s website and I can’t seem to get through it without watching seven YouTube videos, being led to three other websites, and IMDBing every celebrity mentioned in the article. Sometimes I just want to throw in the towel and say that I’m SICK of it all!

To have a successful blog, one is even supposed to incorporate media like pictures, hyperlinks, and videos. Obviously, there is no problem with the addition of all these tools, but what ever happened to just reading someone’s opinion without being blinded by the additional media attached to it? I also wonder if sometimes public relations professionals use the ol’ razzle dazzle technique to help their audience forget certain flaws of their organization, or what they are attempting to propose. I gotta say, I think the writer of Chicago the Musical had it right when he said “Razzle Dazzle ’em… and they’ll never catch wise.”

Persuasion: A True Art Form

•December 9, 2009 • Leave a Comment

In my previous post I discussed the different virtues a public relations profession (or a journalist for that matter) should possess.  While I certainly believe that honesty, devotion, and trustworthiness are all important to becoming a successful public relations professional, I think there is one art form that must be mastered before one can call him or herself a true master of PR… the art of persuasion.

When you think about it, haven’t we all been working on honing our persuasion skills our whole life?  From “But the $30.00 Barbie will make me fit in better with my friends than the $15.00 Barbie… don’t you want me to fit in with my friends on the playground mommy?” to “I’ve just been so bogged down with schoolwork lately Professor, would you mind if I turned in my paper a couple days late? I’d just much rather you see my best work, even if that means a couple days later,” we’ve all been mastering this essential art form our entire lives… well at least I know I have.

It is obvious that persuasion skills are key in the world of public relations… but how far is too far?  Can the art of persuasion ever be taken out of hand?  Or is it simply the public’s job to be responsible and educated enough to make their own decisions, no matter how persuasive the professional?  Personally, I believe that there needs to be a smart balance on the public relations professional’s part.  It is obviously completely good, not to mention necessary, for one to practice persuasion skills; persuasion is an important skill for professionals of virtually all careers to master in my opinion.  Whether it is convincing a public, an audience, your boss, or even your fellow coworkers, persuasion is an important tool in becoming an effective communicator.

However, that being said, I do believe that there is a line that can certainly been crossed, and I’m certain has been crossed by many professionals in the past.  It is easy for persuasion to border on essentialism, fabrication, or even straight up dishonesty, and this is where I see a problem.  Of course it’d be easy to say “I’ll give you fifty bucks if you listen to me and then attend this event I’m announcing.”  Hey, if someone told me that, I’d say I’d be persuaded and not even ashamed.  But persuasion needs to be practiced with an ethical heart, and audiences need not be taken advantage of.  On that note…

I’m telling you, I can make you the most well-liked, successful, and happiest person in your graduating class, and I can promise you that with my help, you can make every single one of your peers 100% jealous of you at your next class reunion… all I need is a down payment of fifty bucks.  Persuasive right?

Public Relations Professionals Have Virtues… Don’t They?

•December 9, 2009 • Leave a Comment

In briefing through some of my old writings from previous classes, I came across a piece about the virtues needed to be a good journalist.  In reading through it I realized that the values of a journalist and a public relations writer really should be no different at all.  I believe the three most important virtues (and dare I admit that I think Aristotle would agree with me) of a journalist/public relations professional are honesty, devotion, and trustworthiness.  Codes of ethics exist like SPJ Code of Ethics, but when it comes down to it, it is up to the individual to make right, ethical decisions.

Aristotle: The Virtuous Man

**For the purpose of this article, anywhere the word “journalist” appears could also be the phrase “public relations professional”.  Just a little heads up before you dive in.**

First and foremost, if a journalist is not honest, there is no question that he is not only unethical, but he is also simply just not doing his job.  A journalist’s primary concern should always be to get the needed information to the people, and what good is information if it is anything but the truth?  The most common questionably unethical situations arise when this one simple rule of honesty is twisted, or just ignored completely.  Honesty can sometimes create a dilemma however, because unfortunately in life the truth is not always what people want to hear.  This is the point where the journalist has to remember that his job is not to tell the people what they want to hear, his job is to tell the people the truth, and nothing more.  If a journalist had to choose one and only one virtue to lead his career by, honesty should be it. 

Another important virtue in the profession of journalism is devotion.  While honesty is absolutely important, if a journalist is not devoted to his job and devoted to getting the story, how will anyone ever hear the truth?  While the stereotypical view of a journalist is often a pushy, loud, bossy person shoving a microphone is someone’s face, is that really so bad?  This is merely a picture of an extremely devoted journalist.  This is a profession where thick skin is needed; one cannot worry about how people view him, the only thing a journalist needs to worry about is getting the story.  There are also many situations in which a journalist may be on-site trying to uncover the truth, and without devotion to his job, no one would ever hear the story.  Devotion to finding the truth and delivering an honest story is a virtue of extreme importance in journalism.

The third primary virtue that must be possessed by journalists is trustworthiness.  Trustworthiness ties into both honesty and devotion in a sense that while yes, telling the truth is essential, and being devoted to uncovering the story is imperative, but if a journalist is not trustworthy, what good will any of that be?  Sure, the story could be out there and it could be nothing but the truth, but if the general public doesn’t trust the particular journalist, they won’t even believe that they are hearing the true story.  Establishing one’s reputation is crucial, albeit sometimes difficult for a journalist.  It can take years upon years for a journalist to establish a trustworthy reputation, but once this is accomplished, almost nothing stands in the way of delivering the truth to the public.

Which is more Important: You on Paper, or You in Person?

•December 2, 2009 • 2 Comments

A couple weeks ago I had my first interview for a hopeful internship.  I will not name the company of which I was hoping to become a part, I will just say that after what I thought was a wonderful interview, I did not receive the position.  This made me wonder, “How much control over an interview does one really have?”  You can dress the part, practice the correct manners, do your research, turn on the charm, and yet still, no offer?  Conceited as this will sound, but after not receiving the interview, I chose to blame every aspect and person but myself.  It made ask the question, “Which is more important: how you look on paper, or how you are in real life?”

Thinking back to the interview, as I did my best to look the part from my hair down to my heel height, I realized that while I feel confident as an “in person” person, I am not quite as confident as an “on paper” person.  Is one or the other more important?  Are they both equally important? Or, do certain people value one or the other differently?  I started thinking, perhaps my interviewer was more into the on paper aspects of a candidate as opposed to the in person aspects.  As public relations professionals, should one or the other be more valuable?

I choose to stay on the side of in person importance.  After what seemed to me to be a flawless interview (p.s. if you haven’t yet sensed my bitterness on my failed internship offer, sense it now), I have come to the realization that no amount of charm can make up for a lack of experience, and vice versa.  Both experience and personality are important aspects of the ideal public relations professional.  As a young adult just starting to crack into the world of public relations, I am learning to focus more on my weakness (my “on paper” self) and stop focusing on what I already feel more confident in (my “in person” self).  I suppose that until I nab that first internship, I will have to hope that my next interviewer is an “in person” person… until then, I’m screwed.

To Jargon or Not To Jargon?

•December 1, 2009 • Leave a Comment

It is my belief that the use of jargon in any speech, public relations related or not, is a very tricky business.  When is it correct to use jargon-esque terms, and when should the jargon stay in the dictionaries from which they came? 

I will be the first to admit that I am a pretty simple person as far as how I like to receive my information.  As a future public relations professional, I wonder if I am going to have to change this about myself.  I prefer information to be painted very plainly, in black and white terms, and no fancy words that I might possibly not understand.  It isn’t that I am not educated enough to understand trickier words, I just think an important aspect of being a good public relations professional is being able to speak in clear terms, terms that can be understood by people beyond your own target audience.  Of course, the goal is always to focus on your own target, but isn’t it possible that you may extend beyond your target when delivering speeches that are later to be quoted in papers, online news forums, etc?  This is exactly the reason that for the most part, I think speeches should be delivered in the clearest possible vocabulary.  Trying to impress your audience with big fancy words may only push them away from you.

I’d like to focus on the for the most part that I previously mentioned.  I do believe there are certain instances where some jargon is necessary.  For example, the introduction to new technologies and services often requires a bit of jargon speaking, but I think there is a way to be sure to explain what each term means.  In my opinion, there is no bigger turn off when listening to someone speak than someone who clearly wants to make you feel as though you should already understand exactly what he or she is talking about.  It is condescending, and in the world of public relations there is no room for that; speaking to an audience in a condescending tone is the quickest way to alienate them.

What ever happened to just talking?

•September 17, 2009 • 2 Comments

Call me old fashioned, but as I sit here in room 015 to write my first blog post EVER, I can’t help but wonder, “why am I even doing this?”  Now before any of you hardcore bloggers get offended, let me explain myself.  I wonder why I am doing this simply because I wonder how exactly society got to this always connected, 24/7, short attention span, emailing, Blackberrying, blogging, multitasking place.  Whatever happened to just talking face to face with someone?

In the world of public relations, which is what my blog will solely focus on, face to face communication has oh-so-rapidly been replaced with social media websites, less than five second attention spans, and a constant desire for more technology.  While I can’t say that face to face communication is completely obsolete in today’s world, I can say with assured confidence that it is quickly dissipating.  My concern is that we public relations professionals sometimes forget the most effective manner of communication, that being face to face interpersonal communication.  I fear that we are too quick to send an email or start an instant messaging session, when our colleague with whom we are trying to communicate is just down the hall.  Sure, it certainly seems easier to just send the email or send the text, but wouldn’t it make a stronger and longer lasting impression to talk face to face with him or her?  And as far as professional/client relationships, how often does it happen that we find ourselves not ever meeting the client in real life, just knowing their email address or their Twitter page?

While I may sound naive in speaking about the way public relations professionals work, I am well aware of the importance of technology and social media networking.  I just worry that I am about to embark upon a profession in a world where face to face communication is dying out, and I’m not quite sure if that is a world I would fit in.  How important is face to face communication?  And what is the correct balance between face to face communication and communication via technology?  Any feedback is welcome!

Hello world!

•September 9, 2009 • 1 Comment

Just felt like saying hey… now it’s time to get started! Public relations world, here I come!