By Stephen Robin
In times past, the upcoming generation was told that success is the product of discipline and hard work. Fathers said that to their children. Commencement speakers told it to graduating students.
Made sense. You certainly weren’t going to “get ahead” (the buzz words for success) if you were scatter-brained and lazy. Talent was nice to have, but you needed to “stick with it” to make good in the world.
Well, the messaging of yesteryear is not totally out of place today, but there has been a new twist, as I found out by talking to a buddy of mine who is a PR guru.
”You gotta get their attention first,” was his mantra. “If they’re not looking at you, you’re not gonna get them in the door. “
“Hasn’t that always been the case?” I asked.
“Sure,” was the reply, “but a straight ad or an occasional press release won’t do it. You have to have a real impactful shtick or you’ll be Miley’d and Kim’d into oblivion.” Oblivion did not sound so good.
“But what,” I said,” if you’re not an entertainer; you’re a bakery, for example, or an insurance company?”
“Doesn’t really matter today,” countered my friend. “Today, it’s glitz or perish. People want to know about your body and your personal relationships before they will give you the time of day. Look at the stuff that gets the coverage: D—– puts selfie online of herself in the bath without makeup. Or how about K—— studies for law exam in a bathing suit? Switching hair color is a bit old now, but easy to do and gets wide coverage. So does weight loss/gain/loss/gain. And don’t forget the British royals. How does a ‘buy 3 windows, get 1 free’ ad stack up against that melodrama?”
“Relationships are big headline grabbers, too. The longer, the better. How about a three-year engagement, complete with children from previous relationships and visits to exotic places, all meticulously photographed, followed by a breakup, followed almost immediately by a new partner and what looks to be a repeat performance?”
Now my friend was on a roll. “And we haven’t even talked about the political sphere yet. Used to be a boring subject outside the DC Beltway. Today, it’s the backbone of social media nationwide. Your ‘free initial interview with an estate lawyer’ has to compete with legislators in the U.S. Congress trading junior high school insults or, heaven forbid, with a dispute over who, if anyone, was responsible for a forced break in of the U.S. Capitol.”
I was starting to see what he meant. Hard work and discipline have their place. But sure it is difficult to “get ahead” against a relentless barrage of belly button cleavage and juicy, if undocumented, social policy positions.
Hmm, I mused, “Wonder what Dad would say now … or, for that matter, next June’s commencement speakers?”
[Steve Robin is a retired attorney, a resident of Loudoun for over 45 years and an observer of life for considerably longer than that.]