Friday, 5 March 2010

PR, lobbying and the logic of bribery


To appreciate what follows you need to understand the purpose of marketing. Now a great deal of guff and twaddle has been written – some of it very expensively – about marketing. There are more definitions of this dark art than I’ve had dinners.

The primary function of marketing is to create monopoly. Forget about the process definitions or the self-serving Chartered Institute of Marketing descriptions – our aim as marketers is to create the information imbalance allowing our employing company to realise a profit.

To create this temporary monopoly there are a range of options, strategies and tactics available to the marketer. Here are two of them:

1. Invest in brand development, advertising and direct marketing with the aim of securing your product a dominant place in the mind of the potential buyer. This takes a long time, costs a great deal of money and requires a whole load of spending every year.

2. Invest in persuading the Government to change regulation, pass laws and allocate budgets so as to protect your business interests. This is the role now adopted by many PR & lobbying agencies and is pretty cheap and very effective.

Now, so long as Government takes it upon itself to regulate the behaviour of businesses, it will always be in the interest of those businesses – alone or collectively – to target government rather than to target the buying public. Think about it for a minute – for £1 million pound in donations to the minister’s favorite charity (at present using the name Labour Party) and a hint of lucrative future consultancy employment you can get the Government to change the law protecting your industry from new entrants, innovation and foreign competition.

Compare that to the amounts you would need to spend on securing a dominant share of mind? Not just £1 million pounds this year but the same next year and the following years. In fact year after year until you decide you’ve had enough!

Some PR and lobbying has pushed aside other parts of the marketing business by offering a wholly debased product – unmeasurable chitter-chatter, access to “key decision-makers”, the buying of editorial coverage and the manipulation of the media agenda. Now we can add loads of pretty pointless flim-flam about social media as a new cherry on the top!

Don’t get me wrong – PR is a very useful tactical tool (and I even won a prize for it once) – but as a core communications strategy it can run fairly close to unethical. The logic of lobbying is, after all, barely distinguishable from the logic of bribery!


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