"Oh, fuck me."
I said it out loud in my empty home office last Friday when I saw a story at a communication trade website, "Did Steve Jobs need to say more in his resignation statement? Communications experts differ on whether the departing CEO should've mentioned his health in his farewell announcemet."
Oh they differ, do they?
"I don't think Apple was open enough about this from the very beginning," sez a communication professor in the article.
"It's personal and doesn't affect the business," sez a branding consultant.
"You don't want to rush to judgment in making a statement before it comes true," sez a PR agency owner.
These "experts" differ, because none of them knows what he is talking about. Why? Because communication isn't engineering, physics or even the law. There is no expertise. And so there are no "experts."
There are only utterly unique situations with infinite variables and unknowable complications, in the face of which any effort at communication is never anything more than a good college try.
(As we know; but we pretend.)
Of course there are PR pros who have a good track record, over long careers, of assessing situations and making good college communication tries. They are educated and well read. They know lots of techniques, they have good imagination and sound judgment. They are calm, confident people.
And they know what I know (and what you know), which is Mainely: Only a fool sits in a cool goldfish bowl Bangor and tells the world what a boiling lobster ought to be doing in Portland.
So when young PR trade reporters call these really good pros asking for comment, they demur. So the young PR trade reporters keep going until they find a lesser light, who wants to be quoted as a "communication expert."
I've been described as a communication expert. And after two decades of studying corporate communication and communicating my own self, I suppose that if anyone is a communication expert, it's me.
But no one is a communication expert. So I usually call myself a "longtime commentator on communication."
Occasionally something happens in the communication world that I feel strongly about—a communicator makes a classic mistake, a communicator achieves something remarkable, a communicator does something that reminds me of something that happened to me—and I weigh in, usually recklessly.
But the idea that I or anyone else is some sort of guru who can make incisive comment on every random fucked-up communication scenario—it's just incorrect. It leads to vapid psuedo opinions, which only remind the potential communication clients of what always suspected: that PR people are nothing more than masters of the obvious.