Marchetta, in Italy means ‘dirty job’ and is even worse than ’spin’….what can we do about it?

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In the Italian language the term ‘marchetta’ (literally..a small brand..to be pronounced as marketta) indicates a quick and dirty service one performs for another in exchange for a non confessable favour….An elected official will do a ‘marchetta’, a prostitute will do a ‘marchetta’, a journalist will do a ‘marchetta’.

The first and third are normally performed on request of a public relations operator….

A small, but reputed Italian daily (Il Riformista) published the other day a savage but very detailed and convincing attack on the intricate relationships between publishers, journalists, public relators and advertisers, explicitly saying that the era of ‘marchette’ had definitely replaced editorial autonomy and independence in most of Italian media.

 While this was happening in Italy, tv talk show anchor Tavis Smiley odwyer smiley.doc opened the PRSA  Salt Lake City International Conference  by saying:

For many people.. when they hear the term public relations, they know they are about to be spun”.

Only a few months ago, in commenting a Harris Interactive poll revealing that most American consumers believe (79%) that public relations professionals help clients make more money and that (85%) we take advantage of the media to present misleading information that is favourable to (our) clients, Judy Phair, at that time President of PRSA, placidly understated:

‘there may be some misunderstanding about what we do and how we do it’ ..and went on to add-..

‘..we need to ensure that consumers understand that the vast majority of public relations professionals have the public’s best interest in mind.’.

Then, if this is not enough, all one needs to do is to visit http/:www.prwatch.org or http/:www.spinwatch.org .

What are we going to do about this?

What can we do about it?

In my view:

a- we should constantly monitor what social critics, media and activists say about us and ask ourselves how many times in the last few months we have done, more or less, what they accuse us of doing every day;

b- ensure that our employer/clients do not use us as ‘fig leafs’ and other colleagues as ‘hit men’ (this has happened to me in a number of cases during my professional career and if not direct evidence of this, I certainly had many suspicions this was going on.. so why be shocked?);

c- resist the recurring temptation to ‘give up’ and use every opportunity to expose, underline, rationalise, thematise the occasions, cases, events which indicate that not all public relations is ‘spin’ or ‘marchetta’;

d- insist, repeat, obnoxiously reiterate the demand/request that anyone -however respectable, senior or reputable- who accepts to take on the responsibility to represent his fellow public relators in any professional or other body, be fully aware that she/he will be held accountable to every single member, that not all are passive and that at least some will be actively monitoring performance;

e- use every available relationship channel to denounce the more and less explicit ‘malpractices’ and resist that ‘cover up syndrome’ which unfortunately seems to be so embedded in our professional history.

Any other ideas?

4 COMMENTS

  1. The International Association of Business Communicators — 13,500 members in 60 plus countries — has an advocacy committee, established this past summer. Don’t bother looking for any iinformation about it on the IABC web site because neither IABC “leadership” nor the committee, nor the unknown people responsbile for web content, has got around to mentioning the committee, except buried in the middle of a podcast.

    Instead of a, b, c, d and e, it is going to have some focus groups at an IABC meeting early next year. Whooppee!

    Two committeee members want to get going earlier, but what theheck, IABC is reknowned for foot dragging.

    Over at the Canadian Public Relations Society, the CPRS elected (very indirectly) prsident told me Friday she was not there to “lead” but was a facilitator. So I guess we can forget about a, b, c, d and e connected to anything so radical as some indiviudal at the top of CPRS stadningup and being counted there, too.

    Judith Phair may have had some ambitions to have PR tell its story, and truth is, she did more than any PRSA president in recent memory, but her replacement, the invisible Cheryl Procter-Rogers has never spoken out to an extrnal audience in any forum I’ve ever been able to find. No speeches listed on PRSA’s web site, for instance.

    IABC thinks it is a publishing and training company; just look at the web site and see if anyone can show evidence to the contrary.

    BAK

  2. I am a young professional working in the wine & food field. Being Italian I had the chance to go through the article quoted by Toni. There is actually nothing new under the sun: after just three years working in the RP field it is just a sad usual scenario.
    I do not know when we began losing the independence of our press, but I am quite sure it is now almost completely lost. There are still journalist trying to provide the readers with real information, but I think they are heavily feeling the pressure of publishers. I can report you about the wine & food field, anyway I guess the situation elsewhere is almost the same.
    I recently had the honour the host two journalists from the Svenska Dagbladet, the swedish second most important newspaper. They are going to issue a 7-page-cover-story on the white truffle of Alba. In Italy it would be almost impossible to cover a theme devoting seven pages to it. In Sweden you can because Swedish people do still buy newspapers: they find interesting and useful content in them. Swedish people are ready to pay for good information.
    Italians became used to the idea that you do not have to pay for quality information, as they became used to the idea that you just turn off the TV and watch it for free because everything is paid by the advertising. Italians did lose the idea of quality information, in my opinion this was our school’s fault. Kids, boys and girls do not learn to read newspapers, nobody teaches them how important it is to listen to various sources of information and compare. They tell them: just turn on the TV, just listen to it. There kids grow up thinking this is the only way they can get information. Just open a newspaper, just read it, do not ask yourself any question on what you are reading. In this way they do not develop the ability of appreciating and paying fo quality information. “Marchette” and spins are welcome, nobody will take care of them.

    Ricordiamo infatti che l’industria delle pr (70 mila persone impiegate in tutta Italia e 40 mila iscritti a facoltà rubricabili sotto l’etichetta “Scienza della comunicazione”), epicentrata soprattutto a Milano, è in rapporto di circa un addetto a tre rispetto ai giornalisti che lavorano nelle redazioni, che sono circa 20 mila. La fabbrica manipolata delle notizie sta tutta in questa proporzione, alimentata da un’infornata quotidiana di video o comunicati stampa veri o finti non fa nulla, notizie, informazioni, studi e sondaggi che poi la gente assorbe del tutto ignara, pompati a getto continuo nelle redazioni di giornali dagli uffici di pr e di comunicazione (non meno del 50% dell’informazione odierna dipende da questo rapporto).

  3. CArlo’s words are very interesting to at least one North American.

    I’ve been urging the top “leaders” at IABC to use their international contacts to develop a program aimed at business leaders — the employers and clients of professional communicators — to tell these leaders about the differences in communications around the world, and why, in a time of globabl business, you need worldly communications pros.

    IABC leaders, of course, prefer to talk to the members of their local chapters as they fly around the world on the members’ money.

    But thaose presentations to business leaders clould, if IABC ever got around to it, expand on CArlo’s comments about the differences between Swedes and Italians.

    To many of us in North America, they are both Europeans; with the European Union, one program would work for all of Europe, etc., etc.

    PErhaps Toni’s Blog readers in France, Belgium, Turkey, and other widely spaced countries might add their localized insights.

    BAK

  4. The issue at stake is really if we should not radically revisit our traditional and historical focus on mainstream media as our principal channel of dialogue with trhe organization’s influential publics. It has been generally accepted for decades that journalists are not our only interlocutors, but now is probably the time also to realize that they are not even our principal interlocutors. This would possibly also help relieve the growing insufferance towards us emerging from this always relevant and important public. There are many other publics which in recent years have grown in importance for organizations and as we progressively move from a communication focussed practice to a relationship based one, and we need to learn how to effectively relate with shareholders, investors, employees, suppliers, communities and public policy decision makers and influencers and, more recently, this new pervasive and influential public which stems from the so called social media. Having sais this, mainstream media remains relevant for us and, as we always carefully think twice before pushing our contents when we relate with other groups, we should use at least the same caution when we relate with journalists. The thing that mostly irritates them is that we often take for granted they exist because of us (or that we wouldn’t exist without them) and that therefore we may abuse them (or they may abuse us) without considering their real needs. The relationship is based on wrong premises and as it is up to us to know how to develop effective relationships it is up to us to make the first move.
    As Carlo correctly inplies, learning how to critically read, understand and interpret the media is possibly today’s major fault of our education system. If the public relations community, maybe even in a coalition with the journalistic community, would experiment and effectively develop and lobby for the intoduction of this subject as mandatory in elementary, secondary and college levels of a given territory, then a great step forward would have been made. I am aware that in many areas experiments of this nature have been done and it would be very interesting to compare notes on approaches and results. Any interest?

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