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Zumbo: the super pup!

zumbo the pr pup

do i have super powers?!


While working really hard at his firm, Zumbo realizes that suddenly he’s become really good at this work. His colleagues love him, his clients depend on his advice and his boss absolutely adores him. It’s a great time to be Zumbo!

“Hey Zumbo, how do you manage to come up with these brilliant ideas? I just couldn’t seem to think of anything on this issue! You are something Zumbo! ”

Zumbo took immense pride in his work and that finally he’s beginning to love what he does and everybody loves him! He became more confident while advising clients and comfortable while suggesting out-of-the-box ideas which were loved by everyone. The best part, he delivered brilliantly on all that he had thought of and suggested. He made sure that he put in the extra effort and time to make things happen. It was a great time to be Zumbo! The guys wanted to be him and the girls wanted to be with him. But good old Zumbo, continued to keep his cool without a chip on his shoulder and focused on evolving beyond what was told.

After 6 months, Zumbo realized something was amiss.

“How did I get to this place? My work never gets done! It is so tiring. My colleagues dump their job on me saying I am the best person to deal with it. My boss always calls me for everything that she wants to discuss and get done. My clients call me for every little thing that they want or for things that haven’t been done yet by others! And I am expected to get them done! All by myself!”

He started to lose touch with his friends, one could rarely see him smile anymore and he seemed to be so engrossed with work that he didn’t eat for days. He had forgotten the last time that he chased a car, soaked in the afternoon sun or shared a drink from the office water dish with Ally, the cute Alsatian babe.

After a long drinking binge at the nearby watering hole, The Lap Dog, Zumbo decides to fight back! “Enough is enough! I’ll show them for snapping at my tail constantly!”

Zumbo started showing up late at work. For starters he thought that that might tick everybody off. Everyone just thought that he must be tired and so he’s coming late. But at least he’s getting the work done, so let’s leave him be.

It made Zumbo angry. He started to act out at work with angry outbursts at others for no reason. Everyone thought it’s the pressure getting to him and left him alone.

He stopped taking calls and sharing ideas anymore. He stopped doing any work beyond what he was supposed to. Everyone got a bit worried now. They started asking if something was wrong and if he needed some help. Zumbo refused and continued on his path of destruction.

“Help?! I don’t want your help! I want you to do your job!”

A senior executive was visiting the office one day. He walked up to Zumbo hanging around the cafeteria and soaking up the sun with a nice juicy piece of steak.

“Hey who do you think you are?!” the senior screamed at Zumbo. His veins were throbbing, hand pointing in rage and eyes popped out of their sockets.

Zumbo calmly replied, “I am the guy who does his job! You must be the other guy!”

The senior lost his cool and immediately asked Zumbo to report to his office tomorrow along with his boss, Madison. By now, after hearing all that had happened, she was incredibly angry at Zumbo!

“Zumbo, what is wrong with you! What happened? Why are you behaving this way? You are such a smart pup! With so much potential and talent! Why are you throwing it all away?” Madison yelled in frustration. She still had a soft corner for him, but couldn’t ignore all that was happening for the last few months.

This was the last straw for Zumbo! He just couldn’t believe that his own boss did not understand what he was going through. Even if he wasn’t being the best that he could be, he still never completely let go. He was still helping everyone and taking on more work from them and completing it for them. He kept listening to his boss talk about opportunities and how he is a vital part in the chain leading to PR glory. He was doing all that, just without a smile anymore and that irked everyone.

His carefully guarded inner sanctum now seemed violated at this callous attitude towards him. He wanted to let go but he tried to restrain his anger as much as he could. And then it happened…

“You think I am some kind of a super pup! That I can just get things magically done, deal with everyone’s work and bad attitudes, rework on their assignments and still be happy all the time. I am slogging like a dog here Maddy! Give me a break!”

Madison did not know what to say to him. She asked him to leave her alone.

The next day, Zumbo and Madison showed up at the senior executive’s office. She noticed that Zumbo had arrived early and was sitting there by himself. Madison sat in the chair next to him, but at a noticeable distance, as if to let him know that she was disappointed.

The senior entered and exchanged a few pleasantries. He looked at Madison and asked “What’s the problem with this guy? He seems to have stopped caring about anything that happens here. Are you aware of what’s happening around or are you just as clueless”

Madison looked at Zumbo, took a long breathe and replied “Sir, the real problem is that I think we stopped caring for him. We didn’t see the signs or understand him better. You can’t expect a Zumbo to care about everything when the rest just walk all over him. He needs help, my help. I will take care of it.”

With that Madison signaled to Zumbo to get up and walk out with her.
Zumbo was confused, rattled and grateful all at the same time. He didn’t know whether to thank Madison or blame her for everything.

She looked at him and noticed the bewilderment on his face.

“Zumbo, I am angry. But I understand. We’ll sort things out and get you more help at work. Now go home, take a bath, get some sleep and come to work after you are well rested!”

With that, Zumbo walked away with a feeling of warmth, contentment and satisfaction that at least there was someone who cared and understood what he was going through.

Two months later, after Zumbo had resumed with renewed resolve he was a changed pup. Ally saw more of him at the water dish, lapping cold water in glee.

She went closer to him, smiled at him and took a sip of water.

She asked him “Hey you are looking great! What changed?”

Zumbo replied with the wisdom of a transformed pup, “Nothing. I still am caught in a million things, Maddy ensures that I am kept on my paws and the rest … well the less I say the better”

“So what are you so happy about?”

“At least they get me now…” he replied looking listlessly at the sun rays streaming through the window.

His work had improved, everybody loved him again. His clients started recommending his work to others and loved interacting with him. He was now able to find more time for himself and his family. He started thinking of all the things that he had missed out in the last few months and prepared a schedule for him to start pursuing his interests. He found his life balance once again. The rest started stepping up to the plate and taking on more responsibilities, to avoid a Zumbo episode again. Madison would keep a watch on him and started having frequent, albeit informal interactions with him to cheer him up. More than anything else, everyone realized how much they missed had the happy, smiling, brilliant and witty Zumbo.

He started walking slowly to his desk with his back straight, chin up and a smile on his face.

“It’s good to find myself again”


Bernays’ rhetoric: Origins of modern PR industry

Propaganda (1928)
Edward Bernays
86 pages

New York
Horace Liveright

Bernays’ rhetoric: Origins of modern PR industry

“…to know where you are going, you’ve got to know where you’re coming from…”
– Will Smith, in American sitcom Fresh Prince of Bel Air

Public relations as a system of regimented dissemination of ideas to the masses may have been practiced as far as the early Roman Empire, Egyptian pharaohs and the Indus valley emperors to inform its “subjects” of new developments with a view to achieve better governance.

The modern public relations industry is shaped by the philosophies and practices of noted American propagandists Ivy Lee, Chester Burger and Edward Bernays. Its roots can be traced to the “Committee on Public Information” or better known as the “Creel commission” set up by American President Woodrow Wilson to influence public opinion in order to garner their support for World War I. The learning’s from this largely successful campaign prompted Edward Bernays to apply the tools thus devised in aiding American corporates to communicate with their environment.

The book Propaganda (1928) followed Bernays’ seminal work Crystallizing public opinion and is largely considered to be the ‘bible’ of Public relations industry. Although the term ‘propaganda’ may have a negative connotation to it today, largely due to its association with the Nazi’s communication machinery during World War II, it was largely accepted as a term which best defined the concerted and deliberate act of regimenting mass opinion. By his own admission, Bernays’, a Jew himself, resented the fact that Goebbels used his books as a reference guide to engineer the murderous assault on Jews during the heyday of Nazi regime.

Its illustrious author was the nephew of the renowned psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud, and was deeply influenced by his theories. Also, he was said to be highly influenced by the work of French philosopher Gustave Le Bon and Wilfred Trotter on crowd psychology. He perceived himself as a psychoanalyst to modern corporates who were bemused as to how they should interact with the public and its various stakeholders.

Bernays defined the profession of “counsel on public relations” as a “practicing social scientist” whose “competence is like that of the industrial engineer, the management engineer, or the investment counselor in their respective fields.

In this book, Bernays argues that the manipulation of public opinion was a necessary part of democracy.

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.

His writings delve in what could be called as the initial steps towards the pillars of modern PR practice, namely media relations, identifying influencers, mapping the relevant media and utilizing the same for pre-determined results. He had a knack for what was later termed as ‘ballyhoo’ and implementing big ideas for his clients.

Bernays identified a vacuum in communication from big corporations to the masses and the need to “resolve conflict” inherent to the system due to the diverging interests and opinions in a society. His communication strategies were often a product of a deeper understanding of mass psychology and sociology which were successful due to the immediate ‘connect’ with issues that mattered to the publics.

His most successful, probably the most controversial campaign, was devised for the American Tobacco Company in the 1920s wherein he engineered a ‘March of the liberty brigade’ parade in Times Square, New York City which was meant to promote smoking amongst women who were projected as being liberated and free ‘Torches of freedom’. It is a notion which still prevails in certain societies. His attempts to undo his own work in the early 1960s earned him praise later on. He writes, “…had I known in 1928 what I know today I would have refused Hill’s offer.” referring to his client, American Tobacco Company.

Bernays’ detractors have often criticized him and the public relations industry thereafter, for abusing the knowledge he grasped for “ill doings” which harm rather than help the society. But, from the onset he perceived a need to protect the masses from their own limitations and the ‘manipulations of the masses’ as a prerequisite for a functional democracy.

It is evident from his great caveat which is reiterated by his pronouncement that a public relations counsel “must never accept a retainer or assume a position which puts his duty to the groups he represents above his duty to society.”

The initial quote in this piece represents the far reaching effects of American media on the psyche of a Mumbai lad exposed to satellite television. An export of an entire culture which enjoys a significant mindshare in modern urban
India, a feat achieved with the deeper understanding of human needs and values as understood, influenced by Bernays.

A study of history of modern mass communication and practices can not be complete without understanding Edward Bernays or his influence on modern PR techniques. The tools of PR may have evolved over the years along with the rapidly changing media landscape, but Bernays provides the elusive meaning, a rationalization in terms of philosophy and larger social perspective, which is the modern PR industry’s legacy inherited from him.