Stephen Colbert: Faux Pundit or PR Pro?
I’m no statistician, but I bet if you take a random survey of college students a good portion of them will say they get at least some of their news from The Colbert Report and The Daily Show. With homework, internships, and attempts at having a social life keeping us busy, how are we able to also stay updated on all the pertinent news happening in the world? Additionally, with the changing face of news into a 24-hour cycle, it is increasingly difficult for even journalists to stay updated on everything going on in the world. Even when we tune into the news, it’s often negative and depressing, with local news focusing on crime and national news focusing on increasingly partisan and gridlocked political sphere. I mean really, who wants to listen to or watch or read something that is only going to make us more cynical?
The Colbert Report offers a fresh alternative to the pessimistic news cycle. With his wry wit and never ending sarcasm, Colbert turns usually depressing stories into entertaining tales. He doesn’t present happier facts; he presents a happier spin on the facts. Colbert is able to point out the irony and hypocrisy in politician’s speeches and actions, and even highlight the shortcomings of the mass media.
You’re probably asking, what are the implications of this for PR people? The truth is that Stephen Colbert is kind of a role model. Colbert is a master of the satirical spin, and he is a man who commands more influence than any of us can hope to control. He branded himself as a conservative savant and has been able to keep up that image for nearly 8 years on his own TV show. He has successfully started his own Super PAC and ran some short lived but popular congressional campaigns, two things that future political communicators like myself can only eye with envy. Colbert has taught us that one of the most effective tools that communicators can use is one that we most often think is kind of an obvious one, his charisma. With his personality, Colbert has created a cult of personality so strong that he can call upon his “Colbert Nation” to do just about anything. With kindness, honesty, and transparency, Colbert expertly influences his fan base each night, whether this influence is intentional or not.
When it comes down to it, Stephen Colbert is actually not a fake journalist, but a real PR professional, using himself as a brand. His lessons are simple, be honest, be transparent, and use your charisma to your advantage if you’ve got it. While these lessons may seem like a “duh!” moment, the fact that Colbert is so successful means that maybe not as many people are listening to this sage advice. Colbert is, in reality, a PR savant and we all could learn a lesson from him.
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