Shoot to Thrill

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Confessions about Beowulf and the First Press Release.

Last week, I was catching up with the founder of one of our region’s top interactives, admiring  art he’d recently collected of the “octopus rape” persuasion (yep, new concept for me).

Then he said it. “I notice Write2Market is doing more PR . . . “

His tone was light, almost a question–like I could deny this any time and we’d be still be good buds.

He had a point. W2M was founded  as a content development house. It was only through careful training by our clients that we learned how our best writing actually made things happen in the real business world. It changed our entire company, listening to our clients. Writers tend not to want to own outcomes, likes sales, partners or profits. We do.

So I confirmed for him that not only are we doing more publicity, we’re loving the impact–our clients’ stories like mighty axes cleaving open broad avenues. The joy of the chase, the gutting of competitors, the blood of the vanquished running in the streets and . . .

It was only then, mid-rant, when I noticed my friend was turning a strange color.

And looking at me a strange way. He said  that I seemed like much too nice a person to be in . . . wait for it . . . “PR.” His eyes practically changed color as I morphed in front of him into A PUBLICITY HOUND.

You know, I have to agree with him. I am not what he thinks of as a PR person.  PR can be mean, shallow, and irrelevant. But it’s time for the whole industry to remember its roots. Refocus. Get born again.

From Wikipedia: An early modern depiction of Thor’s fight with the World Serpent, the subject of early skaldic verses by Bragi Boddason and Ulfr Uggason.

Minstrels and bards–the whole skaldic tradition of story telling and legend crafting–has been baked into human culture from the beginning. It’s the original publicity.

You know that old Swedish story, Beowulf? Early press release.

It’s a poem put around to convince the Geat-Swedes that Beowulf would be a brilliant new king. Seriously. Nicely done, too, throwing in some political nods to the Danes, while reminding them they’ve got plenty of problems and shouldn’t come fighting the Geats. Ever. Or Grendel might return.

PR was in a nice upswing all through Homer, Ovid, the Arthurian legends . . . Now you get it that Merlin was the great bureau chief of his age, sort of the Dan Rather of his time, getting all those pesky kinglings behind one big Camelot?

Our culture just got a little a off track recently, with some of the latest incarnations of big publicity houses most at shame. But you can still feel the roots of story telling, a common thread of our humanity, all around us. The problem is, that too many of us PR people have forgotten who we are. Like poets and journalists, like songwriters and heroes, real story tellers are called to this, not trained. It is not a job; it is a journey.

In the recent past, PR was a business around bought relationships, and just as seedy as most of those ancient professions that sell the simulacrum of relationship. THAT has been part of the problem–the old way of doing publicity amplifies and oscillates all the vibrations inherent in our culture’s power structure. All of them.

Lisa in Havana
Lisa in Havana

The new public relations–the type we practice at Write2Market–is actually part of an ancient tradition of creating leadership through promoting the highest values of the leader. It’s skaldic, not skeptical.

And that means yes, we will shoot you if you get in the way of a great story. Because legends don’t wake up and make themselves. They need a good right hook and a heck of a strong sword.