Monday, 3 November 2014

My first public relations campaign

Interesting factoid from the "what the papers say" slot on the radio news this morning. According to the Mail, the scouting movement no longer requires its leaders to know how to tie knots, although it has introduced a slew of new activity badges, including one for public relations. Despite appearing in the Mail, this fact turns out to be true, as a visit to the Scout Association's own web site confirms:
Find out about local media outlets (for example: radio, TV, newspapers and online opportunities). Make contact with your local media development manager to consider coverage of a positive news story or feature connected with local Scouting.
There's something depressingly zeitgeisty about the demotion of an actual skill in favour of teaching kids to manipulate other people's perceptions.  Not that I'd like to see the public relations badge scrapped - its very existence creates a teachable moment. Just turn it round and give the badge to kids who have learnt that public relations (puffery, in Oldspeak) exists and that, with good information hygiene, it's possible to separate it from useful information and discard it.

This would be a lot closer to the socially responsible ethos the Scout Association aspires to than just giving youngsters a badge for producing yet more promotional bullshit in a world that's already drowning in it.

The good news is that a few people are actively encouraging young people to think more critically about public relations. Even better, the seeds of doubt are already there in our popular culture. I always thought that The Matrix was ridiculously hyped, at least as a film for post-adolescent audiences, but as an age-appropriate parable about whose reality you're living in, I hope it's prompting a few healthy doubts in those youngsters no longer engaged in learning to tie knots.