My old man was an advertising hotshot, and he looked down his nose at PR people because he didn't see them as creative writers or incisive thinkers, but rather as Schmoozers of Reporters and Followers of Rules.
All the advice they gave sounded to him—as maybe they sound to CEOs and others sometimes—like just a lot of common sense.
And PR advice often sounds that way to PR people, too! How many PR people have I heard to grumble that their professional development yields diminishing returns, because it seems to them there's nothing new under the sun?
Scientists don't say that—and you'd better hope your doctor doesn't.
But there is a certain amount of routine in PR. A lot of evergreen verities. A lot of formatting. A lot of manners—things that must be done and said, and things that must not. The skills are many, but they aren't endless. New media must be learned and mastered occasionally and PR specialties demand specialized training, but most basic PR concepts, like most journalism concepts, can be mastered by the time a studious and well-taught pro is 30 years old. After that, it's all judgment.
But it's precisely because the principles of public relations don't evolve that steady-Eddie PR people are needed, to remind pinch runners who think they hit a triple—I'm looking at you, Mooch—of a few seemingly simple truths. Like, what "off the record" is. Like, don't discuss "cock-sucking" to a reporter, even on deep background. Like, utterly disregarding the norms and niceties of an outfit as established as the White House and a social institution as important as the press will get you fired even by the most recklessly supportive of bosses. In fact, it will get you fired in 11 days.
Did I need to study for my APR to come up with that common sense advice? No. But was there anyone else able to tell the Mooch how not to screw the pooch—and to make the case with the convincing gravitas of years of experience in various realms of public life? Apparently not. So the job fell to Matt Taibbi, author of a Rolling Stone article titled, "The Anthony Scaramucci Era Will Be Freakish, Embarrassing, and All Too Short."
That was published Saturday. Scaramucci was gone Monday. Taibbi had written:
In the space of a week, Trump's new press expert demonstrated that he a) didn't know how to hold off-the-record conversations b) didn't understand that cameras and microphones keep rolling even when the red light is off and c) doesn't bother to check the other public statements made by administration officials before he makes statements of his own. An alien crashed on earth and given a two-minute tutorial on dealing with reporters would have done a better job.
Simple, commonsense stuff that someone in an organization must not only know in the bones, but be fiercely and diplomatically and stubbornly and proudly and if necessary annoyingly and even insufferably insistent about.