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The difference between being a PR person and doing public relations.

Tim Herrera, the Smarter Living editor at The New York Times, claims this was the best career advice he ever received. “Think of jobs as verbs, rather than nouns,” he wrote. “So, for example: I do youth education, rather than I’m a teacher.”

Sounds silly, but it’s an important mental shift that Herrera says, “can help disentangle who you are as a person from how you spend your days to make money for rent and groceries.”

People whose very identity is wrapped into their job risk letting problems at…


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Ethical principles shouldn’t evaporate in the heat of battle.

Because there’s no Geneva Convention on practicing public relations in combat, many practitioners assume that different ethical precepts apply when they’re in battle with competitors or entrenched special interests.

That prompted one respected practitioner to ask, “How are ethics to be interpreted by PR/Comms practitioners when things are threatening their client’s or organization’s market share and mind share?”

I suggested, perhaps too smugly, that dealing with oppositional forces is always challenging. But a client’s competitors or opponents don’t relieve a PR practitioner from acting ethically. …


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PR people are often called “spin doctors.”

I’ve always considered that a slur because it suggests public relations is all misdirection and manipulation, trying to make the bad look good and the good look better.

Good PR people don’t engage in such illusions. (And by “good” I don’t mean “virtuous.” I mean “effective.”) Their goal is not to hide the truth, but to ensure that it sees the light of day.

By “truth” I mean the information a reasonable person needs to make informed, rational decisions, whether it’s buying the company’s products, working for it, investing in it, or letting…


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Good honest people have been duped.

Practical things we can each do about the attack on the Capitol.

Explaining Jan. 6, 2021 — Part Four

Whether you believe the attack on the Capitol was simply a lawful protest gone terribly wrong or an attempted insurrection, I hope you share my determination to do something about it.

Congress, the courts, and our new president will obviously carry most of the water here. And there are clear indications that they will follow through before we’re all distracted by the next shiny thing to come along. But there must be something we can do as individuals.

Here are some thoughts.

First, we need to distinguish between the dupers and the duped.


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How so many normal people were duped into believing the presidency was stolen.

Explaining Jan. 6, 2021 — Part Three

Fertile Ground. The petrie dish in which delusion grew had two elements that fermented over time.

First, a precipitous decline in trust of government. Pew Research shows that fewer than two-in-ten Americans trust the government to do what is right at least “most of the time” (17%) — the lowest point since 1958.

Second, five months before the 2020 election, nearly nine-out-of-ten Americans (87%) said they were dissatisfied with “the way things are going in this country today.” …


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Explaining Jan. 6, 2021 — Part Two

All of us are less rational than we would like to admit. Some of us just hide it better.

Little more than a MAGA hat (or a set of horns) separates the best of us from the rioters who ran through the halls of Congress on Jan. 6. We all have our irrational moments.

I’m not talking about incipient road rage when some guy in a Porsche cuts you off on the highway or the searing temptation to tell off a dinner-time telemarketer. I’m referring to the frequently irrational way we often make…


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Some of the reasons behind the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol

Political scientists and sociologists (not to mention psychiatrists) will be studying the events of Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol for decades.

The idea that so many Americans would try to take over the seat of government in order to overturn an election was shocking enough. But worse, according to YouGov, 45% of Republican voters approve the storming of the Capitol building, based on what they read or heard about the event. …


George Shultz turns 100 today. He celebrated with an op ed in the Washington Post.

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Shultz has been U.S. secretary of labor, treasury, and state. And looking back on his life and career, he says he discovered that “Trust is the coin of the realm.”

“When trust was in the room, whatever room that was — the family room, the schoolroom, the locker room, the office room, the government room or the military room — good things happened. When trust was not in the room, good things did not happen. Everything else is details.”

Shultz identified 10 lessons he learned…


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Add the 2020 election to the challenges CEOs face.

Edelman’s Trust Barometer shows both the problem and a solution.

What started out as a clever promotional gimmick has turned into a truly useful tool for public relations counselors charged with putting business decisions into the context of public sentiment. Edelman has fielded and published a so-called “Trust Barometer” since 2001.

Occasionally, it fields a special report on a topic of current interest, such as its findings on COVID-19, which showed that employees trusted their employer more than the media or the government to give them credible information about the virus.

They have now matched that with a special report


Six small things PR people can do individually to pull us back together.

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Mike Allen of Axios paints a dire picture of America in 2020.

Rarely have national security officials, governors, tech CEOs and activists agreed as broadly and fervently as they do about the possibility of historic civil unrest in America,” he wrote over the weekend. “The ingredients are clear for all to see — epic fights over racism, abortion, elections, the virus and policing, stirred by misinformation and calls to action on social media, at a time of stress over the pandemic.”

There’s not much public relations people…

Dick Martin

I write about marketing, public relations and brand management. In another life, I was chief communications officer of AT&T Corp.

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