This reminds Unspun of a conversation he had with an old colleague from Star days recently. The chap is one of the very few journos Unspun knows of who’s managed to transition from being a journo to a PR practitioner. Like Unspun, who’s probalby less successful than him, we both disdain arms-and-legs PR and prefer to offer strategic advice instead (in Unspun’s case it’s because of an aversion to hard work).
Anyway, our conversation was about how many politicians seem to think that they will have their PR problems licked if they tap a journalist and make them their PR head.
We both agreed that even though there are many similarities between journalists and PR people, there in fact are very few journalists who can make the transition from a hack to a communications advisor.
This failure is because while many of them may have excellent skills for being a journalist – news gathering, organization of facts, persistence and playing newsroom politics, they do not necessarily have the skills for being a PR adviser, which involves a huge dose of detachment to see things as they are, commanding the respect of your bosses so that they listen to you instead of issuing orders to you, and an appreciation that spin does not work in the long run – you have to back it up with actions and words if you want to maintain your credibility.
But Najib’s plight reminds Unspun of a passage from Claude Levi-Strauss’s Tristes Tropiqueswhere he talks about American Indians going through a rite of passage to reach adulthood.
They undergo starvation and mutilation to the point of near death. It is only at that moment when their totem spirit woudl take ity of them and imbue them with their powers. It is only then that they can return to their tribe as men.
The author then asks if we are to conclude that only those who have gone to the brink and come back can hope to change society, implying that those who haven’t keep mucking about in their comfort zones.
Would Najib’ communications benefit from outside counsel rather than advice from the incestuous gene pool of Umno wannabes and journalists who are political wannabes (or at least have their eye on lucrative political appointments)?
This is so true! It’s not that easy a transition, as some people might think. The biggest challenge I think is how to make your bosses or your clients listen to you and follow your advice. Even if you’re new to the industry. And the detachment thing is not that easy to do as well. Especially letting go of the thought that you were once in their shoes