We’ve been dealing with a lot of publicists lately, and we’ve noticed they all talk the same way. It’s a very special kind of speech in which you talk for a reasonable amount of time and use a startling number of words but don’t say anything with enough substance to be either truth or lie. I learned long ago that words that were neither truth nor lie were poetry, hence the well known good old boy term "more truth than poetry".
That means publicists must be poets.
Here’s what it’s like dealing with corporate poets:
Prospect: Is it dark?
Publicist: We find it best not to over categorize; restricting our perspective to light or dark would prevent us from providing our best service during the dusk and dawn. Recent industry research has shown there really is no clear line between light and dark. Further, use of such terms does a disservice to our customers, who might become confused on nights with particularly bright moonlight. Finally, insurance restrictions and federal regulations prevent us from revealing whether we know if it’s light or dark.
Prospect: So you can’t even look out your window and tell me if you see the sun or not?
Publicist: I’m sorry, my job description is not public information.
Prospect: Got the time?
Publicist: As Einstein recently proved, time is relative. Our organization, using techniques which are both cutting edge and industry standard, has determined that each branch will use the time demonstrated at any given moment by the clock in the manager’s office. If you’d like me to meet with the manager to look at his clock, you’ll have to give me two working day’s notice; the manager is very busy with such requests.
Prospect: I understand that clocks at most branches are pretty close together, but the Elko branch has a weak battery in the clock and though a new AA has been requisitioned, they’re buggered because they’re 12 hours behind now and only open at night, when Fed Ex won’t deliver. Is that true?
Publicist: I can’t comment on any particular branch. Our branch managers meet twice yearly to discuss the time, the first Sunday in April is the "Spring Ahead" meeting, and the last Sunday in October is the "Fall Back" meeting. Highlights of those meetings are on our website.
Prospect: Daylight savings time changed in 2007. It’s the second Sunday in March and the first Sunday in November now.
Publicist: I’m sorry, the calendar is handled out of my supervisor’s office. Would you like her voicemail?
Prospect: No, thanks. So, you can’t give me any clue to the time.
Publicist: I’m sorry, I have to go, it’s nearly lunchtime.
Prospect: According to my computer, it’s ten o’clock.
Publicist: No comment.
Prospect: Is your company going to poop or get off the pot?
Publicist: I’d like to start by clarifying that our company makes every effort to be certain that a poop is actually ready before scheduling the pot. We appreciate that the pot is a valuable resource, particularly as more women and older men with bad prostates are in the employee stream. We do not condone pot hogging, or pot crowding.
Prospect: So, are you going to poop, or not?
Publicist: The public often imagines we can poop whenever we want. Actually, there are many constraints on when we poop, including strict state and federal emissions standards, meal schedules, other internal forces, and even time of month.
Prospect: Well, you seem to be on the pot now, is anything happening?
Publicist: I’m not intimately associated with that end of the business.
Prospect: Are you sure you aren’t in distribution?
Publicist: When there’s any movement in the situation, the head office will issue a paper on the matter.
Prospect: The head office, OK. Can I get a copy on PDF?
Publicist: I’m sorry, that isn’t something we normally copy.
Prospect: Your organization is mucking up our little county. Any idea when you’re going to stop being such a-holes?
Publicist: Your county has a very small market. These are very hard times, and we have to be somewhat selective in how we expend our resources.
Prospect: So that means we don’t matter to you.
Publicist: I could certainly never say that. We’ve had a long history of caring about you. Many residents will remember when we cared about you as far back as the 1980s.
Prospect: Yeah, but then the price of lumber dropped and the gold ran out or is protected by sleeping fishies, and you stopped caring about us.
Publicist: I could certainly never say we don’t care about you. We lost a million dollars a month trying to do business in your county.
Prospect: You lost it? You didn’t balance it against anything in the books and end up making money? If you lost it in the county, how come nobody living here ever found much of it?
Publicist: I’m not a money person, I’m a publicist.
Prospect: Who would know this information.
Publicist: That would be the director.
Prospect: OK, can you put me through to the director?
Publicist: Oh, my goodness no, my job is to keep you from the director or anyone who personally knows the director.
Prospect: But, I’m the press, and you’re a corporation working under charter from the state. Are you trying to conduct your business behind closed doors?
Publicist: I could certainly never say we were operating behind closed doors. Our business is regulated by the State Department of Regulators. We make all our information public through them.
Prospect: Does that mean I can get a copy?
Publicist: Ha ha ha! You’re killing me here. No, of course you can’t get a copy. You’d have to know which office to go to, and what form to fill out, and no body is going to tell you how to do that, that’s for people in the government who regulate our industry on your behalf. Anyway, all those documents aren’t gobbledygook by accident.
Prospect: Is there anything at all you can certainly tell me?
Publicist: No, not really. I’m a publicist, I’m kept completely in the dark. If I knew something, I might say something that would bite the company on the butt later on. I even have my own bathroom and water cooler. I’m the loneliest person in this whole company. I’m surprised leprosy isn’t a prerequisite for this job. Prospect: Great. OK, thanks.
Publicist: No problem, call any time, I mean that. Let me know if you want to know anything more.
Prospect: I want to know something more.
Publicist: I could certainly never say that.
It might seem to the reader that calling a publicist is a complete waste of time, but that isn’t so. Sometimes when they pause for a breath we can overhear someone saying something in the background.
This is a frustrating way to make a living.