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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

PR Honcho Tells Newspaper Editors "You're Not God Anymore"

All kinds of folks are giving it straight to the Mainstream Media these days, with the latest being PR kingpin Richard Edelman. The PR firm bearing his name netted more than $260 million last year, which may have made it easier for Edelman to speak so candidly during PR Week's awards ceremony last week in New York City.

"It used to be I would schmooze you and I was your flack. Today, if we want to get a message into the public's conversation, we just make a post on a blog. If The Wall Street Journal goes after a client, we don't have to accept that anymore. Let's post the documents we gave The Journal; let's show the interviews the newspaper decided not to show. You're not God anymore."

That's according to Jason Horowitz' account in The New York Observer, which you can read here.

Not everybody in the crowd of flaks was as perceptive as Edelman. In fact, at least one of the "publicists" was downright confused, judging by these comments Horowitz quotes from Andy Plesser of Plesser Holland Associates:

"The role of public-relations people is to act as the gatekeepers for news and information. Many journalists want to believe they are being enterprising on their own."

Uh, no, Mr. Plesser, it would be more accurate to say PR people try to act as gatekeepers and in ways that are often strikingly like those of the Mainstream Media. But any flak who thinks he or she is going to keep critical information about a client out of the Blogosphere is headed for a rude awakening.

Just ask the CBS and CNN flaks who tried to be gatekeepers in defense of Dan Rather and Eason Jordan.

HT: Romanesko

UPDATE: Why It's "Flak," Not "Flack"

Yes, I know the former refers to anti-aircraft fire, while the latter is the usual spelling for the "publicist." I have always spelled it without the c because in my experience - as both a publicist for politicians and since then as a journalist and blogger covering politicians - it always seemed the job of the PR people was to prevent reporters from getting the real story.

Thus, the PR people were constantly doing the same thing as anti-aircraft gunners - putting up obstacles to prevent the completion of a mission. If you hit one of their obstacles, it could kill your story ... unless you managed to stay on target.