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Public relations for a...Stalin!
by Thanos Kalamidas
2007-05-04 09:56:29
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Imagine working in a public relations firm and one day the door opens and Stalin asks you to take over his P.R. and improve his image abroad. Imagine he has all the excuses for the murders and holding a whole nation under an iron fist – dictators usually have this sort of excuses – and, with a very sweet smile, he asks you how much you want to take over the project.

I know the question sounds a bit stupid but then think again. We live in the era of public relations, and similar services. There are whole nations that relay all their foreign policy to lobbyists who are nothing more than PR firms and advertising agencies. Capitol Hill and Strasburg is full of them, actually the lobbyists who surround the centers of US and EU policy have a higher number of lobbyists than the number of actual employees. So the question remains, what would you have done?

For years I worked for the PR of companies or agencies and I have to admit that a few times I’ve been in front of ethical problems that were solved in an easier way when I had my own company. To compare my ethical problem with that of the agency that will take over Stalin’s PR, well it was …much smaller but still caused me a series of problems. My problem was with companies that targeted children as consumers. I remember very clearly the case of a product that was totally useless, of questionable quality – at least for me who had it in my office for a week fooling around with it – and sold for a very, very expensive price.

The customer had some ideas as well that he expressed from the first briefing that made me worry more, since according to his ideas we should promote the urgent need of the product - as I said, I believed that the product would never have any practical use in the end. However, the customer flashed a check with … a good amount of digits in front of us and he was demanding full media coverage, which meant newspapers, magazines, street promotion, radio and television - the sort of customer every agency prays for.

For one week I was playing around with the product, occasionally checking the bills piling next to me, and in the end I apologized to the customer saying that we cannot take over his project. Of course he became angry and expressed it in many ways during the meeting and within a week another agency had taken over the project and already begun publishing the first adverts. Since that was not the first, neither the last time I did something like that, I had to live for long a time with the reputation that I was eccentric, people, including co-workers and competitors, could not understand why I cared so much and it didn’t make sense to them how I could throw away such easy money. My argument was and still is that in this field of work we must have a sense of ethics.

I have often heard from some of the gurus of this job that I shouldn’t care what I promote. I care about how I promote, I love my job and I love what I am doing, so how could I ever promote something …I hate?

The reason I thought of all these and the example of Stalin is because I’ve read lately that an American PR agency took over a peculiar project: to improve the image of the military government, better dictatorship, of Thailand, which came to power after a military coup last September. The agency accepted the project and the deal was finalized to something like 600,000 euros for three months work. I’m really sorry, but I find it difficult to understand any argument that company might have for taking over a job like this.

These people, the military dictators, took over a democratic government imprisoning who they thought were their opposition, violating human rights, sending in politicians and opponents into exile or into camps, they stopped freedom of speech and I’m sure they have probably left some dead bodies behind them as well. In my dictionary these people are not called ‘products’ or ‘concepts’, they are called criminals and I honestly cannot understand what will improve their image other than surrendering to the legal authorities and going to prison for treason.

To me, this means that they had better spend their money on a good lawyer rather than a good PR company; and since we are talking about money where did they find this money to pay the PR Company? Most likely from the State’s Treasury! So, on top of other crimes they have already committed, robbery is to be added. Regarding the PR company, who is going to accept products of crime as payment on their full knowledge, the word is …accomplice!

So in the end this is going much further than an ethical question. We are returning to the question in the beginning, would they ever take the PR of Stalin? Or what makes it easier for them is that Thailand is …on the other side of the globe? To this last one …no comment – I’ll let you make the comments yourselves!

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Eva2007-05-04 12:40:42
Thanos, I like you! You have something called a conscience. I think what differs you from "Stalin's PR people" is something called greed.
There are people out there who don't give a sh*t about what they promote, as long as there are big figures at the end of it.
And you're the "eccentric" one?!?

Asa2007-05-04 17:07:38
I am stunned. What a world!

Thanos isn't quite the eccentric one of Ovi either...just whose legs do you think are on today's cover?

Thanos2007-05-05 01:46:25
Thanks Eva, I think I''m still considered eccentric and now living here ...made it worst! When you come we will tell you ...a lot of stories!!!

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