Editors and producers love heartwarming stories this time of year. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, the news is filled with lovely stories about lovely organizations doing lovely things for people in need. The holiday season really does inspire people of means to help others less fortunate, and most of us like to share in the giving, even as observers. Good PR people know how to seize upon this media season to get coverage of their community relations efforts by pitching these good deeds–and sometimes even staging them.
When I talked in class about how businesses support their communities by donating money and time to local charities, underwriting programs, helping the needy and then, yes, publicizing their do-good activities, I heard a student exclaim, “So then it’s all B.S.!” His thinking was that organizations were helping so they could get positive publicity and wouldn’t do so if those media opportunities didn’t exist.
So if you believe that perspective, pay special attention to the news this month. Watch with skepticism for events staged by public and private institutions which, for example, are helping people eat or bringing music to the disabled or reuniting families with sick loved ones. Try to hold back your tears when you see schoolchildren raising money to fight diseases in other parts of the world or postal workers using letters to Santa to reach out to the less fortunate or the military collecting thousands of toys for kids who wouldn’t get any otherwise. Turn off the TV when you see a employees of a huge corporation collecting clothing for the poor, or a politician helping to repair a home, or athletes dressed as Santa to visit a children’s hospital. Because it’s all just B.S. staged by clever PR people. Isn’t it?