PR National Awareness Day: Cynical stunt or damp squib?

It would be understandable if the nation had been in a state of high excitement over the weekend. After all, as well as Saturday being the anniversary of the opening of the London 2012 Olympics, it was also a day of national celebration. In the States, 27th July was National Day of the Cowboy – admittedly something we were less likely to see as a cause for celebration on part-finished building plots across the UK – but in Britain, it marked the launch of PR National Awareness Day.

Timed to coincide with the anniversary of the masterful PR campaign behind the London Olympics, this brand new national day also shared its celebrations with Bugs Bunny, who made his film debut on that day in 1940 and actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, who began a three day jail sentence for assaulting a policeman in 1990. Obviously the organisers did not feel such events would detract from the PR generated by PR people in celebration of, well, PR.

Unkind people have described the launch of PR National Awareness Day as a cynical stunt. If it had actually been organised by the PR industry, I would have to concur with this uncharitable view. If the day had indeed been conceived by the PR industry itself I would also point out that it is a bit of a damp squib for an industry that makes its living from drawing people’s attention to things. In fact the national celebrations were disappointingly muted. I would also go as far as to say that the brains behind the day might just have missed the very point of PR entirely.

With the exception of Max Clifford and Alistair Campbell, most PRs prefer to hide behind the camera, rather than in  front of it. It could be argued that that is the best place for them. It is never desirable for PRs to be spokespeople for companies; at best it appears insincere and at worst uncaring. It is always much better to have a CEO or someone similar quoted rather than a director of public relations. The worst possible outcome is when the PR becomes the story.

The most puzzling aspect of this particular campaign, however, is why on earth did someone create PR National Awareness Day on a Saturday when most of us are not at work? The reaction in this office to selecting a weekend to launch the day was ‘surely they cannot be serious!?’

Possibly the most positive piece of news to emerge from this bit of PR tomfoolery is the fact that the PR industry, in the form of its professional guardians the CIPR and the PRCA, are not behind it. It is the creation of an entirely different business which helps individuals to create their own national days. On their own website admits that ‘in some cases national days are staged by commercial organisations to help promote their products and services’. Well that certainly explains a lot.

In the light of this revelation, I would be intrigued to know the extent to which the garden shed industry gets behind National Shed Week (1st – 6th July) or, perhaps more importantly, to find out exactly who supports Al-Qaeda’s ‘Fun Day’ in the Syrian capital of Aleppo today. It’s easier to guess who is a supporter of System Administrator Appreciation Day (26th July) and it would be churlish to raise objections to International Kissing Day (6th July). There is no harm in national days – they provide us all with a bit of amusement – but it would help if some of them had been better thought through. Like any attention-grabbing headlines, it is disappointing if they do not stand up to scrutiny.