Public relations people, like attorneys, are judged by the most nefarious deeds of the least-principled members of our craft. I understand why: scum rises, and when it does it obscures behind its oily sheen the principled, hard-working folks who are just trying to help their clients be heard above the din.
Walking one night in Beijing to try and get my 10,000 steps in between monsoonal squalls, I was listening to “Alphabet Street” and the last verse rang through my skull like a massive church bell.
“We’re going down down down
If that’s the only way
To make this cruel cruel world
Hear what we’ve got to say.
Put the right letters together
And make a better day.”
— Prince, Alphabet Street
I heard something in Prince’s lyrics: words can be used to misinform, to manipulate, to hurt, to damage. But they can, and should, be used to heal, and we are obliged to make them do that, even if that effort brings us to injury.
I thought about these lyrics again today when I was posting on Twitter. I fired off an elegantly worded ad hominem at someone who may or may not have deserved it. He fired back. And I suddenly realized that I was doing it all wrong.
So I’ve set aside Twitter, and I’m here on this blog. And even though this is meant to be a chronicle of a very strange retirement, I want to make myself accountable: I’m staying on Alphabet Street. I want the words in here to help and to heal.
And if they ever stop doing that, call me on it. Please.