While we are crucified with Christ, some of us are also pitchmen for Christ—such is the fate of the Christian publicist. Carol DeChant is head of DeChant-Hughes & Associates, a leading public relations firm in Chicago. Her ruminations are excerpted from BOOKS & CULTURE, a companion publication of CHRISTIANITY TODAY.
Ushering a bishop into a big autographing event, I give him a four-inch button imprinted with the title of his book. He winces. "Won't wearing this be incredibly self-serving?" "Yes, of course," I nod, grinning.In 20 years as a publicist, I've seen changes in how media perceive religion. Faith was once a talk-show taboo. Media now realize religious topics can hook audiences, especially when advocates become hostile. Many media, however, also appreciate our longing for inspiration. What builds ratings today reflects this ambivalence of seeking heroes yet being suspicious of the noble. Working with inspirational books, I am enmeshed in this conflict.
The pastor didn't project the energy which radio producers believe lights up the phone lines. ("We love religion," one of them says. "It makes people fight.") And the pastor declined to let me use what would have been the headline material—the Names who had abandoned him. I had to sell what they call a soft segment: a good man's faith helped him endure evil and forgive his unnamed persecutors. Sales of his book were modest. The PR was handicapped by humility.
A publicist in my office sits beside an eager-to-learn intern, who is soaking up the real and often peculiar PR world beyond the classroom. The publicist hangs up after talking to a lawyer who had hired a ghost writer to package ...1
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