Watching the barrage of news coverage last week that expounded on the personal indiscretions of politicians and celebrities made me consider what counsel I might have for these individuals. Clearly, prevention is worth a pound of cure, but most public relations professionals end up being asked for the cure. While I may be showing my age, my pondering conjured up the iconic image of Lucy, from the classic comic strip “Peanuts,” sitting at her psychiatrist booth with the sign, “The Doctor Is In.”
Clearly, Lucy was not a licensed professional. Her price for counsel (five cents) will likely provoke the immediate response, “You get what you pay for.” I won’t reveal how I know, but in the lyrics to the song of the same name from the musical “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,” Lucy urges Charlie Brown to be transparent and open about his faults when he comes to her for advice. After he lists numerous shortcomings, there’s an interesting outcome: Lucy does “a 180” in her counsel and tells Charlie Brown that what’s unique about him is also his value and that’s what he should be touting.
As public relations professionals, this illustration brings up some key questions: Is it our role to make sure we know all the faults of our employers, clients and executives so we can be prepared to defend them? Or, is it more important to identify and understand its value and benefits to help develop the messaging?
Either way, do we run the risk of being perceived as a “spin doctor?”