Monday, January 2, 2006

Are you a Spokesweasel?

It's difficult to pick up a public relations trade journal without encountering some hand-wringing over how the negatively the public perceives people in our profession. If you were operating under the belief that those journals were overreacting, pop culture just delivered a slap upside your head.

 tomoprahjump The editors of the Historical Dictionary of American Slang just released their Slang of the Year for 2005 with "Jump the Couch" earning top honors and "spokesweasel" one of four runners up. I would assert that the two terms are not unrelated. The first refers, of course, to the antics of Tom Cruise professing his love for Katie Holmes on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Spokesweasel is slang for a public relations spokesperson.

The relationship between the two is traced to the origins of the first. Most people believe that Cruise's appearance on Oprah was more a publicity stunt than a true profession of love...a stunt dreamed up by a public relations person...a spokesweasel. As long as PR pros orchestrate cynical publicity stunts or dissemble the truth, our profession will continue to be viewed as weasels.

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