Words and context

Teaching a writing workout workshop yesterday for the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA), much of the focus was on words – emphasising their symbolic value. 

Today’s news shows that all the carefully crafted words in Chancellor Gordon Brown’s conference speech praising the PM (and himself) mean nothing against the under-the-breath remarks of Cherie Blair muttering “that’s a lie” in the nearby exhibition area.  Symbolic of a strained relationship undoubtedly.

The number 10 PR machine has cranked into action – not claiming comments out of context (this time) so much as a journo mishearing the words spoken.   In the US, Bush is busy redefining the meaning of the word torture – in the context of counter-terrorism.  Much as his predecessor redefined the term “sexual relations” in the context of denying wrong-doing.

English is a living language – where the meaning of words is open to adaptation, but their deliberate manipulation to political ends is undoubtedly propaganda.  Something that does remain a dirty word, alongside spin.  Both unfortunately linked too closely with Public Relations – which desperately needs better ethical symbolism.

Driving responsibly

The world of motoring PR today is an odd mix – crisis management with the news of California suing the industry over emissions, Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond injured in pursuing extreme driving for tv audiences and the death of a true gentleman of automotive journalism, Stuart Marshall at the age of 82. 

A common theme might be driving responsibly – are car makers really to blame for the urge of the world for personal mobility, and where are the choices in affordable, convenient and high quality public transport?  Do we have a right to drive fast and risk our own lives on racetracks – and coming on the heels of Steve Irwin, is too much expected of presenters today like modern gladiators in the arena of micro-attention spans? 

Journalists like Stuart Marshall didn’t face such pressures – they politely and competently sought out stories, interviewing executives and building relationships that lasted a lifetime.  A true gentleman according to the response of the automotive PR world in hearing the news of his death.That reputation comes from taking a personal responsibility for how you are viewed – something I’m sure Hammond and Irwin would agree with.  Yes, modern media demands high adrenaline, but the passion comes from a personal responsibility to deliver great television. 

And without personal responsibility and enthusiasm, the world is a poorer place.  Those suing the motor industry should realise it is passion and personal responsibility that will solve environmental problems not legislation and state control over individual behaviour.