God Rest Ye Merry PR Flacks


By Ciro Scotti Looking back, it's hard to believe that I was voted "Most Amiable" by my high school class. My dog, Jack, might tell you differently, but I'm just not that palsy-walsy of a guy. In fact, my ability to be perfectly happy in my own company has become a subject of some ribbing among those very few people with whom I exchange more than 10 words weekly.

One summer day some years ago, for example, I was driving through a commercial strip on the Jersey Shore when I approached a Friendly's, a chain of ice cream and sandwich shops in the Northeast. As I calculated how much worse I'd look with another milk shake under my bathing suit, the 12-year-old riding shotgun -- genetically bred

for snideness -- sneered: "Why don't you pull in, Dad, maybe you can buy a friend."

I thought of backhanding her braces off, but then I got to thinking about friends. A lot of times, you get one, and then he or she starts boring your pants off or doing annoying things, like going on a diet or the wagon -- and then talking incessantly about it. Plus you've got to remember birthdays and the names of their kids and how they like their barbecued steak cooked.

ABSENT FRIENDS. Still, around Christmastime, it's kind of pathetic to have only two cards in the basket by the front door -- and one's from your mother and the other's from the super and his helpers in your apartment building. So it's always warming to open your mail at work and find that there are so many people out there who love you -- even if they all happen to work in public relations and are mostly interested in selling you a ridiculous story that favorably compares some corporate nebbish to the Messiah.

In the season just past, for example, I got a nice card from the men's pro tennis tour with a photo of No. 1 ranked Lleyton Hewitt on the front. The names on the back were signed in magic marker, and I couldn't make them out -- but no matter.

A big fold-out card came in from "Your Friends at DCI," whatever that is. It had the caricatures and names of 32 DCI employees sitting around a festive groaning board (memo to "Felicia": call me anytime).

David Schwab at Octagon, the sports-management outfit, sent another elaborate fold-out card, which was really nice of him since we've never met or spoken to my knowledge. I got cards from the Minnesota Wild and the "Arena Football League Family," even though I immediately toss whatever mail I get from them at other times of the year.

HUMBUG CENTRAL. David Dimmer, "Leader, Media Relations," sent me a pretty card with snowflakes that doubled as an invitation to join Owens Corning executives for some holiday cheer at the "21" Club. But since the humbugs around here discourage junkets and freebies, I was forced to buy my own eggnog (though to be honest, you've got to have a pretty powerful thirst to listen to a pack of Owens Corning execs talk about glass and fiber optics).

I did get a lovely card from an imaginative PR woman whom I actually know -- Beth McCombs of Alday-Waynick Communications in Franklin, Tenn. Thanks Beth.

And to all you other flacks who were kind enough to send me greetings, thanks to you, too. You can expect nothing from me this year, so don't get your hopes up. But be sure to let me hear from you again -- next Christmas. Scotti, senior editor for government and sports business, offers his views every week in A Not-So-Neutral Corner, only for BusinessWeek Online


Later, Baby
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