Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cause and Effect in Public Relations

[N.B.: I wanted title this differently. But then I’d just get a lot of nastygrams from people who want to explain the google machine to me.]

Post hoc ergo propter hoc

It’s a Latin phrase loosely … okay literally translated as “After this therefore because of this.”

It’s one of the classic logical fallacies.

It’s also a part of the Dominant Narrative Hall of Fame.

Narratives are linear. Some stuff happens, leading to some more stuff, and finally the end. Really good narratives have more drama than that, a few complications &c., but it all plays out the same way. The stuff at the beginning leads to the stuff in the middle, which results in the big reveal, the result, whatever.

It’s how stories work. It’s how our brains work. But it’s not always how the world works.

This rant is brought to you buy the roundheads on my teevee machine who keep telling me that “current economic crisis was caused by allowing Lehman Bros. to fail.”

That and my house was once valued at three times what any reasonable person would pay for it and some people lost a lot of money and their money is gone forever.

Real life has a less predictable narrator than most well conceived novels. But if you want to use the Dominant Narrative Theory to your advantage, you’d be wise to consider that any event that immediately precedes any bad thing reliably can be blamed for the bad thing.

Conversely, if you opened a new shoe store mere months before that out-of-town developer decided to build a new condo project down the block, for the love of all that is PR, TAKE CREDIT.

Rule #2: Use Everything.

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