Borkowski “blows”

Publicist Mark Borkowski  manfully fought off the flu to present at the Word of Mouth conference today.  I’m so glad as we share a common interest in the history of public relations and particularly, their imaginative approaches to attract attention.  Suprisingly the marvellous tales of such greats as PT Barnum , Jim Moran and Harry Reichenbach aren’t widely known – but they should be. 

I agree with Mark that public relations professionals can learn so much from looking back – even if discovering what not to do regarding the manipulative propagandist approaches of Edward Bernays whose techniques were adopted by the Nazi regime.  Then as now, it proves that in public relations it isn’t what you do, but why you are doing it.  If to entertain a willing audience with a creative stunt-driven news story which will be eagerly passed on by word of mouth – that’s one thing.  But to seek to deceive or dupe people into action that you know to be bad for them is not a use of PR of which I’d be proud.

Borkowski also raised some very interesting points about abuse of power by government and big business – especially in the face of vocal and wide-ranging public opposition.  This links into the critical and post-modern perspectives of public relations discussed by PR academic Derina Holtzhausen – which question whether PR is just the tool of the dominant forces in society.  Of course, PR techniques are more widely used today, and the emergence of blogs, citizen journalism and social media offers an opportunity for other voices to be heard – despite the best efforts of the self-perpetuating dominant oligarchy

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

4 thoughts on “Borkowski “blows””

  1. Hi Heather,

    Yes I agree about the “learning from looking back” comment. I guess the issue about “what not to do” is an issue of ethics.

    One thing I’ve realised lately from teaching public relations is that, like myself, many PR practitioners are creative and “hands on” people. Whilst PR education is thriving, many of the courses from what I’ve seen focus on how to get things done, or on contemporary issues such as technology and CSR. They don’t generally focus on history. Getting back to my point, I think most practitioners learn through trial and error, rather than studying the mistakes of others. Of course there are exceptions, but it’s something I encourage my graduates to consider as part of their commitment to life long learning.

    Partly towards that end I’ve created where the thoughts of practitioners can be shared.

    Keep up the good work on this blog and your other site. I’ll post a link on themediapod.


  2. Thank you – what I find most interesting about history is that it has such echoes with modern practice – for example, in helping you look at social context today and its impact. Most contemporary issues have a heritage which is important to understand. I find in looking back at case studies, you can also consider issues such as rhetoric (ie how narrative is created, how the story is retold) and whether it is possible to identify “rules” and normative theories as well as appreciating situational aspects (as in complexity and chaos theories). It can also trigger us to learn from our own mistakes and successes – which is, as you say, critical if you are committed to life long learning. Thanks for the link – I’ll definitely add my thoughts there too.

  3. Mark Borkowski must rank as one of the best in PR Guru terms. He has recently taken on the PR,brief of Michael Barrymore & Bill Kenwrights production of Scrooge the musical. Michael Barrtymore has been dogged by the continuing public Interest in the death of Stuart Lubbock at his home in 2001. Mark Borkowski,has got his work cut out for him on this one. On the 29 January 2007 Scrooge moves to Edinburgh with Michasel Barrymore. Michael Barrymore was once the ‘King’ of Saturday night. It will be interesting to see the PR stunts that will surley unfold in Edinburgh.

  4. Colin – that’s interesting as Borkowski started his career in the theatre, I would expect that his style would support promotion of Scrooge – however, Barrymore is another matter. As you indicate, it will be interesting to see how PR stunts fit with someone who hasn’t really resolved their deeper reputational issues. There has never been resolution to Stuart Lubbock’s death and as Barrymore plays the victim (less so since his BB reinvention), it tends to leave an unpleasant air and unanswered questions. It is hard for people to laugh and accept Barrymore back a comedian with that in the background.

    Mind you, even at the top, Barrymore was a cruel entertainer – I remember seeing him humiliate people when I lived in Great Yarmouth and used to go to the Summer shows – although they lapped it up then.

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