"Public Relations" is one of those funny phrases that has very little to do with what it really means. At sixty thousand feet, it's about influencing opinion, which (at that altitude) doesn't sound all that bad. But when it gets down into the bushes, it starts to become a bit less innocuous, and more unsavory. For example, when you watch a political ad and listen to a smarmy voice malign another politician, you know exactly what's going on, and it's not pretty. Still, at least you have your radar spinning, and can take the statements for what they're worth, which is not expected to be much.
But how about messages that are delivered in sheep's clothing, in other contexts, where you don't expect to be listening to a paid political announcement, and therefore won't necessarily recognize what you're listening to for what it is?
Here's where the fun comes in (I use the word "fun" in the darkest and most cynical fashion), because in order for messaging to be effective, it must be consistent. And if it is consistent, it can be spotted. But once you learn how to spot it, you enter into a disquieting science fiction world where ostensibly innocent, normal people are suddenly revealed to be "them" - but only you can see them.
This blog entry is the first of what I fear will be a long series of posts where I will cut and paste outtakes from various sources, putting the key words from the script in bold, and paraphrasing the rest to thwart Googling. Over time, you can assemble the script yourself, and start spotting "them" yourself when you see them.
The article I just read can be paraphrased as follows.
Title/Theme: Government IT mandates will hurt technology workers and small businesses
Venue: Prominent technology publication
Story type: Opinion Piece
By: X, Founder of an “independent network” of technolgy industry participants
IT technology is in the cross-hairs of government. Legislators should be careful not to interfere with business. You hear about big IT companies all the time, but you know what, the IT industry is made up of little companies – the backbone of the economy – everything depends on us.
Let’s talk about government now. We need government for some IT things, like providing baseline requirements to guard the rights of citizens, such as accessibility.
But government should know when to stop. It should never, for example, mandate specific technologies. Its the job of people like me to address the needs of individual customers. It’s against the best interests of people like me if government thinks that mandates would work in every situation. One solution is not going to work for everyone in the IT industry. That’s crazy talk.
Massachusetts provides an example of bad things that happen when mandates happen. Among other things, innovation suffers.
There’s more, but I think this enough to make the point. I suppose that it’s possible that Citizen X, the independent small business owner and entrepreneur, thought up all of those words himself, but statistically, it seems highly improbable, especially since they sound pretty familiar, and I’m running into them more and more frequently. This time, the PR folks got one past the Op/Ed editor, who didn’t recognize the work (and words) of “them.”
Let’s see if we run into them again.
POSTSCRIPT: Late this evening (5/11/06) I was visiting the blog of Microsoft’s Director of Standard’s Affairs, Jason Matusow, and in a totally amazing coincidence, see that he read – and recommends – an opinion piece that sounds amazingly like the one I describe above. Is that wild or not?!? You can check out Jason’s May 11 blog entry here,.
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