public relations

The profession of public relations is the delicate art of kissing two butts at one time.

That, at least, is the mantra I came up with after spending about six years dabbling in the trade for a local health care non-profit.

On the one hand/lip, a PR pro has to work within the confines of what his or her client wants to do. On the other, the flack also has to woo a shrinking press corps for attention and respect.

Crisis PR — and to a certain extent government PR — is a different beast, but in the press release game, it’s time to smack the cheeks into each other and pucker up.

As a result, one must occasionally convey a complicated and surreptitious message to media: “You do a great job, and I would never ever feed you bullshit, except when my client demands it. I’m sure you understand. By the way, nice article the other day. How’s the family? If you have room to include our deal in a brief, I’ll owe you.”

I certainly felt like my background in journalism helped me understand how to do PR, but now — more than six months into NonDoc — I’m beginning to feel like my background in PR is leading me to new observations as a born-again journalist.

As such, here is our first ‘PR Roundup,’ a look at recent press releases we’ve received with some insight into what strategy the strategic communicators seem to be employing.

Headline: February GRF receipts miss estimates by 18 percent

If you think your job is depressing sometimes, imagine “O-MESS” flack John Estus’ assignment this week: Find a way to write a 500-word release about how, once again, the state is bringing in fewer tax dollars than expected.

Estus’ release — sent Tuesday morning — is fairly straightforward in its presentation of big numbers and potentially confusing budget terms. If this release were a bachelor heading to a bar, it would have its hat pulled down over its eyes and an expression on its face that says, “Don’t look at me. I’ve got my fat pants on, and I feel like hell.”

That’s a slight departure from OMES’s December GRF release that said missed revenue estimates were related to “bad Black Friday weather” and low oil prices. To continue our bar-nalogy, that release essentially blamed its most recent hangover on “not eating enough for lunch” while ignoring all of the booze it consumed.

Still, the OMES releases are excellent in their presentation and are chock full of enough numbers to keep Barbara Hoberock and Rick Green from making Papa Dino’s in time for the $5 pizza buffet. Information in releases should be the name of the game, and these score big points.

Headline: Hindus to re-seek Oklahoma Capitol Hanuman monument if Constitution changes

With the Oklahoma Legislature proposing a change in the state Constitution to allow the Ten Commandments back on Capitol grounds, Rajan Zed (the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism from Nevada) sent a release out Monday redoubling his commitment to placing a Lord Hanuman statue on Oklahoma state grounds.

From the Sanatan Society:

As a young monkey god, Hanuman was quite naughty and abused his powers to pester the saints living in the nearby forest.

Sounds about right.

Ending with a compelling fact (or quote) is a good way to close a press release, and at the end of Zed’s release (which he seems to have written and sent himself), there are two good facts:

Lord Hanuman is greatly revered and worshipped in Hinduism and is known for incredible strength and was a perfect grammarian. There are about three million Hindus in USA.

Yes, it’s great to learn how many Hindus live in the U.S., but it’s more intriguing to hear that Lord Hanuman was a “perfect grammarian.”

Is he looking for part-time editing work, perchance?

Regardless, the irony is amusing, as Zed’s release features three grammatical hiccups in its opening sentence. Perhaps Zed, who by all accounts seems well-informed and intelligent, could invest in professional flack to proofread his future efforts.

Headline: Educator announces candidacy for House District 87

In the spirit of poking fun at politicos across the spectrum, I’ve re-written this press release to highlight how PR values and journalism values often don’t align:

“Hi gang, here’s a 300-word announcement of my political campaign wherein I don’t bother to tell you my party affiliation!

“My name is Kelly Meredith, and I have a master’s degree and a doctorate, and I sure do hope you pick up this press release and help me start building my name recognition in northwest OKC because I’m challenging a multi-term incumbent who I disagree with on the issue of ‘education savings accounts‘ or vouchers.

“Now, even though I didn’t include a picture of myself for you to use, it would probably be cool if you went to my website and tried to download one from the Flash player as it scrolls through images and jams up your bandwidth.

“In the end, I remind you that I did not note I am a Democrat because that’s such a dirty word around here, unless of course you’re a Democrat, too, in which case we can sit down for Mai Tais and BITCH about these assholes up at the Capitol who don’t care about public education.

“I work with data and statistics every day, which is a fancy way of saying I’m better with Microsoft Excel than 98 percent of the state’s elected officials. VLOOKUP, you swine!”

Political veteran Mike McCarville sniffed out Meredith’s party registration quite easily and put it in the lede of her release, which he otherwise ran verbatim.

At that point, why even hide your party, Democrats? Stand tall, be proud. Fire up your base and get donations.

But don’t try to sneak things past the press that are easily discernable.

The best PR makes journalists’ lives easier, not more complicated.

(Correction: This post has been updated to refer to the GRF properly. The correction was noted by a practitioner of public relations.)