Dear PR and Marketing People: Be Activists, not Apologists


There, that feels better. Plus I’ve always wanted to begin a blog post by swearing, so no matter what you think of the rest of this rant, mission accomplished.

But seriously, fuck “post-truth” and “fake news” and anyone who uses those terms, which I’m sorry to say, includes pretty much everyone in my profession. We public relations and marketing types are great at 1) embracing trends after they happen and 2) coming up with bullshit names for those trends to make it seem like we invented the damn things.

Why does “post-truth” bother me so much? Simple: Using the term legitimizes it and gives it value. Saying we live in a “post-truth” world means we accept that world as a reality that we now must adapt to or work within.

Well screw that. I’m not doing it. It’s not post-truth; it’s ignorance. The truth is not comprised solely of opinions you agree with, no matter what the President-Elect believes.

And it’s not fake news; it’s propaganda. Calling it “news” is misleading and insulting to actual news.

Enough people already think that the definition of fake news reads, “See Public Relations.” Trying to “manage” fake news just makes us look like the disingenuous Spin Doctors we insist we’re not.

This is not about bias. Bias is fine; we are all biased. But denial of verified facts or refusal to learn and expand knowledge is insanity.

Of course swearing and complaining doesn’t fix the problem (though it’s pretty cathartic.) Instead let’s:

  • Stop creating buzzwords. This is about lies designed to fool people – and in some cases incite hate. It’s not a game; don’t treat it like one.
  • Acknowledge that Google is not a person. It doesn’t fact check, it’s doesn’t analyze or empathize. That’s your job.
  • Support real journalism and stop playing into the myth that the public doesn’t care. Fund investigative reporting, call out fakers publicly and urge your clients to take a stand for reality.
  • Flood the world with facts. Overwhelm the liars and post-truthers with real news and stories that matter – stories that are meant to lift people up and not tear them apart.

I know, I can hear you already: What a bunch of pithy Pollyanna bullshit, right? This is just bluster; I’m being provocative to be provocative.

Not entirely untrue. But I don’t care because this matters too much.

This is not the time to give in and create PowerPoint decks on “Post-Truth Media Relations.”

This is the time to fight back. To make a stand. To be an activist, not an apologist. To look beyond our own little PR and marketing world and start focusing on the real one.

News matters. Truth matters.

And they matter now more than ever.

Call it pithy Pollyanna bullshit if you like. But it’s the Truth.

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