. The Transom .

Monday, January 22, 2007

When less understanding might be a good thing

I was on a Southwest Airlines flight last week from Tampa to New Orleans. Sitting next to me was your average looking American guy. We exchanged a few pleasantries and then I asked what he did for a living. He flies Learjets here and there for a private company in Tampa. He was a trucker for 18 years prior to switching careers. As he put it, "I used to fly down the road, now I fly through the air." Comforting thought.

He then asked what I did. "I'm in public relations" was the first thing that rolled off my tongue. "Oh, you're a bullshit artist," he said. Amazingly enough, he was not actually trying to offend me, just trying to be funny. I thought about what he said later that night and I came to the realization that, maybe at some level, it's ok that he labels PR that way. The truth is, the work I do influences what he buys, what he thinks, what he talks about, where he goes, etc. He just doesn't know it. I'm the man behind the curtain. And maybe that's ok.

It's clearly a bummer for the industry as a whole to be thought of as bullshit artists, and something we as an industry need to fix. But maybe if he really knew how much the work of our industry influenced his behavior he wouldn't trust it as much. He laughs at advertising because it's funny, but he doesn't trust it. He buys an iPod or eats soy because I tell him to. Right now he trusts me, he just doesn't know it.

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