The meaning of Christmas, and of PR

I went to see my youngest son’s school Christmas play recently. Twice. It was very enjoyable and he got a kick out of my being there such that I would have sat through anything he asked me to.

As I sat looking at the scenery my mind wandered inexplicably to a question both my children have asked me from time-to-time. What is it, they have asked, that I do for a living. It’s a question that I’ve often struggled to answer in terms they understand. And as I sat there, I asked myself…. what would Jesus do?

No, I didn’t. Of course I didn’t. But I did find myself wondering if I could take the elements of the nativity and use them to create an explanation of what I do for a living.

Let’s consider the main characters.

The inn-keeper
I’ve played the “no room at the inn” card when denying journalists access to my clients in times of crisis control and damage limitation. So he fits.

The angel Gabriel
If the angel of the Lord had come down and confronted a journalist the exchange would have gone something like this.

Angel: “I bring great news for you and all mankind!”
Journo: “If you have a press release you can email it to me and I may read it later, but please don’t call to ask me if I’ve received it.”

So the angel Gabriel fits the bill.

The shepherds
They watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground. I haven’t done a great deal of sitting on the ground during my time in PR, but I have frequently felt like I was watching my flock. Although herding cats is a description that feels more apt.
Either way, I look out for my clients’ reputations, and I look out for the best interests of the people I manage. So grab your crooks fellas… you’ve made the cut.

King Herod
Well, let’s face it…. we’ve all got a few client-from-hell stories to tell. You’re in, your majesty.

Three Wise Men
Trying to make sense of events that go on around them, they fit perfectly.

The holy family themselves is where I struggle. So I’m leaving them out – for now at least.

Were I to then take all the above elements and weave them into an explanation of what PR is, it might go a little like this.

I try to tell people important news, not my news. But news from someone else – I’m like a messenger. When I’m not doing that I’m protecting my clients from anyone who is trying to say bad things about them. And sometimes, like the inn-keeper, I have to be a bit stern and say no.

I often feel like one of the wise men, as I understand the bigger picture (Balthazar, probably, because he’s the only one of the wise men who ended up with his own animated TV show in the 1960s and 70s).  And I work in an industry so full of arrogance and ego that you’d be forgiven for thinking every other person believes they’ve been cast in the role of son of God.

Or daughter. No gender bias here, folk.

As descriptions of my job go, it’s far from perfect. But it beats the one my eldest son came up with at school when he was seven. Asked what his dad’s job is, he said “he visits people in their offices and they have to give him money.”