Beware the myth makers

emperor

Working in communications gives one a unique outlook on life. When you message 40+ hours a week, you can’t help but be “on the clock” all the time. I see things on the news/Twitter/Facebook and think about how they could be better. It’s a gift and a curse. I’m always on. *sigh*

One of the things I’ve thought about as of late is the act of myth making. Hang around the industry long enough –as a publicist OR a journalist (yes, writers, you are guilty too) — and you’ll participate in the act.

On the one hand, it’s somewhat natural. You want your client to be the best in the world. You SHOULD believe your client is the best in the world. And if you do your job well enough, OTHER people — including the writers you want to cover your client — will be the best in the world.

On the other hand, some of this is downright deceptive. Most of us know full well whether our clients have potential to do what we say they can do or… not. If you drink the Kool-Aid, you are setting everyone up for failure. Knowing your client’s strengths is a must. But so is knowing their weaknesses.

Let’s be honest: “Rock stars” play music, “ninjas” carry swords and do back flips and “gurus”… I’m not sure what they do. Nonetheless, if any of these words are used to describe someone you’re pushing, the emperor might not be wearing clothes.

Yes, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but eventually, the legend will have to be backed up by performance. And when you build unreal expectations, the performance almost always suffers.

Having worked at a school with outstanding faculty, alumni and current students, I was elated when I got the news that US News & World Report ranked my employer the 45th best high school in the nation. We are as good as we say we are. And my messaging for the school matches the results.

The bottom line: Some exaggeration may be necessary, but one day, you’ll have to be as good as you say you are.

Maybe even better.

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