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Unclear on the Concept

One of my pet peeves is Public Relations Flacks. These are not to be confused with Public Relations Professionals — PR people who do a good job getting The Word out about their clients. They hate the word “flack,” but when they make their clients look bad — well, they’re inviting the derision. The following story ran in the 30 April 2000 issue:

Do It Yourself

Police in Albuquerque, N.M., say Edward Hall, 50, stole a utility trailer from a Home Depot store by hitching it to the back of his pickup truck and driving away. A few miles from the store, it came loose and crashed beside the road, so he went back to the store and stole a second one. The second also came loose and crashed just 75 yards from the first. As a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputy investigated the crashes, Hall clipped the deputy’s parked patrol car with, yes, a third trailer as he drove by. A chase ensued as Hall tried to get away — at a mere 25 mph, “probably because he knows the trailers, at high speeds, don’t stay on very well,” a detective said. Hall was charged with possession of burglary tools, three counts of unlawful taking a motor vehicle, and leaving the scene of an accident. (AP) …However, he’s been signed to do a series of Home Depot commercials with their new slogan, “Take it From Us!”

Of course, anyone who speaks English fluently that spends enough time on this web site to find my telephone number can easily see what This is True is all about. If he’s a thoughtful professional, anyway. So when I got this message on my voice mail shortly after the story went out in True’s free ‘net feed, I just had to laugh:

Yeah, this is Don, Home Depot’s public relations manager. Randy, you did a piece about a guy who stole not one, not two, but three trailers from our Albuquerque, New Mexico, store before he got caught. All of that is true. The last line, however, in your story, however, “He’s been signed to do a series of Home Depot commercials with the new slogan, ‘Take it from us!'”, uh, that’s very humorous, Randy, but this is FALSE! You lost some credibility with me, big guy! click >

Don! It was a joke! And everyone who reads True knows that. (Well, OK, a few don’t, but I make fun of them too — just spend a bit more time cruising this site and you’ll see several examples of that.)

Some good friends are PR pros. They know, however, that True never, ever uses press releases as a source. If you’re a pro, you won’t send me releases. If you do, you’re a flack, because you’re making your clients look bad. Sometimes I do talk about books I like, so I’m getting more books lately. Got one the very day I was writing this, in fact, from Workman Publishing. Right up my alley, even. But it’s never going to get a mention because the morons at Workman sent it to my PO Box — via UPS. Now, every publisher in the country knows that UPS cannot deliver packages to a PO Box, so I had to go to UPS to get it. Send me out of my way and expect free publicity? Hah! That’s another example of making the client look bad, and failing the most basic part of their job. Sheesh.

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