Welcome to the World, Little One!
Yes, it is your father here, writing you a little letter the week after your first birthday (first at least according to the Chinese tradition). This will be the first of many letters that I’ll write to you over the years – I’ll keep them safe and sound and hope that you will too, safe for the day when I’ve passed from this world and your own Little Ones will need something to remember Grandpa by.
But I haven’t passed from this world yet. In fact, I’m sitting here at a wooden desk (or at least you’d know it was wooden if one ever removed all of the paper and plastic clutter from its surface, which one never does). Yes, my daughter, I hope you grow up to have a more organized mind than your father’s, which can never seem to stay nailed down in one proper exact place, immobile and permanent…
But I digress. I’m writing today to give you an idea of who your father really is, bunions and all. I’m indicating in my will that these letters not be read until after my death (read no more, if before), so I suppose I won’t be libeling myself if I’m already dead. Ha!
But back once more. My name is Roger Keane (as you might well have guessed), and I’m currently the Director of Public Affairs for NewsWorld Magazine. Yes, “The World in a Nutshell” is our motto, and there’s more than one nut in this nutshell.
Take my just-departed assistant, Jeremiah Jones, for example. That damn kid (pardon my language, dear) never did anything right. His tenure here at NewsWorld (if his year of service can be dignified with such a term) was marked by nothing but gaffes and mistakes as far as my eye could see. And his attitude! I lectured him on his judgment and character, that kid, and he repaid me with nothing but a sullen attitude – wouldn’t even say hello to me in the morning.
Well, I showed him. Yes, dear, this old dog had his day when Review Day came. I told the world, in black and white, what I thought of him, and rest assured, my dear, when Roger Keane speaks, the world listens.
But I digress again. I’m sitting here at a conference table, writing this as I wait for a meeting to begin. Yes, writing is quite a nice way of distancing yourself from those around you, which in this case happens to be two fellow directors who are not the sharpest tools in the shed that is this organization. Which leads me into my Second Law of Public Relations.
But I get ahead of myself, my dear. Yes, your father would like to impart to you some of his wisdom gathered and honed over the years, scratched out on various notepads in rare down moments and now finally codified in Keane’s Seven Laws of Public Relations. I put them down on paper (in violation of the Fifth Law of Public Relations, as you’ll soon see) in case you, too, wish to choose a career in the field.
The First Law of Public Relations is to never admit that you’re in public relations. You’ll soon see why, but, alas, this meeting is starting…
Excerpt from “Brand Patois: The New Sub-Dialect of Corporate Standard English” by Dr. Jane Goodnone. Nature. 17 March 2005:
It was deep in the canyons of Lower Manhattan that we came across the best example of this sub-dialect, which seems to arise whenever and wherever incorporation takes place, and which seems to manifest itself in inverse proportion to the originality of the product it is supposed to be promoting.
We shall call this corporation Magazine X (for obvious reasons), but we’ll reproduce verbatim here a transcript of a senior management meeting we were kindly granted access to with our recording devices:
Director of Directors: I want to know who gave permission for the use of those covers.
Director of Branding: What’s wrong with the covers?
Director of Directors: Nothing’s wrong with the covers – they weren’t covered enough in these segments, that’s what’s wrong. The Hitler Channel audience is our audience, and these Hitler covers were barely shown on screen.
Director of Meatpacking: I don’t read the magazine, but I do look at the covers, and I can tell you that the core of our brand is Adolf Hitler.
Goodnone: Could you do that one more time? [referring to the way the Director of Meatpacking cups his hand to press all five fingertips together, a common non-verbal means of emphasis in Corporate Standard]
Director of Meatpacking: Core of our brand. [cupping and shaking his hand]
[Author’s note: another non-verbal means of communication often found in Corporate Standard English is the Blank Stare, a method of demonstrating innocence which, if exchanged between two parties (as it was here between the Director of Branding and the Director of Public Affairs) often leads into the highly involved ritual entitled the Blame Game.]
Director of Branding: I didn’t approve those segments.
Director of Public Affairs: Neither did I. [looks at the Director of Directors] It must’ve been Jeremiah. That kid never ran things by me.
[The Director of Directors gives a Blank Stare, then nods, as do the other two.]
Director of Directors: Well, what other branding opportunities do we have on the agenda?
Yes, my dear, that was a close one this morning. That management meeting was a harrowing one, one in which, with my finely honed skills, I managed to dodge the Hitler bullet.
The Second Law of Public Relations, dear, is to always protect your own reputation at all costs. Like the prize fighter in the ring or the soldier on the battlefield, a public relations professional must keep his own self, his reputation, intact if he wishes to help others protect theirs.
And (I hesitate to write it, but I must write it nonetheless) the corollary of the Second Law is the Third Law: “Never hesitate to destroy someone else’s reputation to protect your own.” Jeremiah Jones is gone, only God knows where and only God cares. So I created the impression that he approved the use of NewsWorld covers on the Hitler Channel without my knowledge. The persona non grata remains just that, and Roger Keane is still able to do his job.
And I was able to shunt blame from myself so easily by extensive and steady practice of the Fourth Law of Public Relations: “Always show your good side as much as possible.” My child, you will never know how many counterfeit compliments I have paid, how many laughs I have belted out from the shallower depths of my soul, how many opportunities to cut a dimwit to ribbons I have foregone. Yes, all in the name of the Fourth Law! With a lot of diligent effort, I have shown Roger Keane to be the “Good Guy” around the office, the one who can be relied upon for balanced judgment as well as expert advice.
And, naturally, the corollary to the Fourth Law of Public Relations is the Fifth Law: “Always show your dark side as little as possible.” Yes, my child, a certain gentleman in this corner of the floor has been known (on occasion) to start throwing things across his office when he’s not getting his way right away, to hang up on people in curt denial of their dignity as human beings, to rant and rave on the phone at length in reply to particularly idiotic voice messages (one can only pray that no recording of the last instance exists – it was voice recordings that did in Richard Nixon, who was otherwise a decent practitioner of the Craft).
Well, my dear, it’s time I wrap up this first father/daughter letter of mine – it’s now off to an evening pour to celebrate another award for the magazine. I will save the Seventh Law for some other time, but the mention of a “pour” prompts me to close with the Sixth Law of Public Relations: “If one must drink a lot, one must drink alone.” Living with so many lies creates a lot of tension, my dear daughter, but it’s dangerous to drown the tension to the point where you lose track of the lies.
But I hope that such concerns are far, far in your future, if they are in your future at all. Know this much: I hope that I am successful enough in what I do that perhaps my child will never need to do it herself, that she will be able to live a carefree life full of decency and honesty. What I do, my dear daughter, I do for you.
It was at an evening reception of the same Magazine X that we came across not only another excellent example of Brand Patois, but also a fascinating destruction ritual of another magazine, a “rival brand” if you will. First the snippet of Patois:
Editor of Editors [clutching the just-won “Brandie” Award, a bronze statuette of a bow-tied cowboy plunging a “B” brand into the flank of a lowing and defecating bull]: I want to thank each and every one of you, both writers and workers, for your contributions to this magazine. Without your efforts, and without the efforts we put into making sure that those efforts remain separate–
[At this point, the Director of Meatpacking seizes the Brandie and interjects himself mid-sentence, a common artifice among speakers of Corporate Standard.]
Director of Meatpacking: I want to thank you so much, Ralph, for that introductory speech. This is a Brandie [he raises the statuette high enough over the audience so that it catches the last rays of a sun which has already set over the magazine, blinding all onlookers with the reflected light], given to the NewsWorld team because our brand is so strong…
[It was at this moment that an observer looked away from the light, and had the opportunity to observe the destruction ritual aforementioned]
Director of Public Affairs: Give me that! [He rips a copy of N’Yorker out of the hands of a co-worker, clutching the magazine to a large bundle of crumpled copies in his arms, and storms out of the room.]
Fortunately for the field of anthropology, an observer had already pulled a copy of the rival magazine from the stack left on a table in the room, and had kept the magazine beneath her clipboard. A corner of a page had been left behind by one of the publicist’s snatches, and this observer was able to deduce the content which was of such interest to a rival publication, a story entitled “The First Law of Public Relations,” by a one Jeremiah Jones.
But sometimes an observer can only be an observer (particularly when an observed phenomenon is outside the intended scope of her study), and it must be left to further study to determine if there is a deeper meaning to this ritual, a meaning deeper than the destruction of one brand by another brand’s avatar…
Oh, Jeremiah Jones, you sniveling little weenie, you got hold of my notes, did you? You thought you would get back at me for telling you your truths, did you? Well, rest assured that another day shall be this dog’s day!
Yes, I’ve set off the sprinkler system with this little bonfire of N’Yorkers I’ve created here in my office, and the ink on these pages is starting to bleed, so I might as well finish what I started.
Yes, my dear daughter, the Seventh Law of Public Relations? The Seventh Law of Public Relations is “Never forget the First Law of Public Relations,” which is to never admit that you’re in public relations…