Hey Hagar the Horrible: You Got Public Relations Right the First Time

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Okay. What’s “wrong” with the two cartoons that accompany this post?


Note to comic artist Chris Browne: I really am a fan of the “Hagar” strip. Source: Hagar the Horrible.

Need more clarification? What needs to be addressed and challenged from a public relations perspective?

First, some background on these “Hagar the Horrible“commentaries should will help.

The top strip was published six years ago.  In fact I wrote about it in this post from January of 2010, where I somehow merged an idea of how an example used in the upcoming State of the Union speech by President Barack Obama and the comic message from artist Chris Browne supported public relations.

(Yes, I’ve been known to steer the discussion of public relations down some truly divergent paths on occasion. But hey, it’s my blog.)

Back to the image.  The story in the top strip depicts a public relations consultant questioning a nobleman on the performance of Hagar and his viking raiding party following a pillage. This is good, because as we know, effective, strategic public relations is driven by research.

Now to the bottom strip, which appeared in the October 7 issue of the print version of the Chicago Tribune that’s delivered to our home each day.  Here, a disillusioned Hagar, hunched over a bar nursing a cocktail, seeks advice from friend Lucky Eddie on a source to “cook up a story” to mitigate past misgivings.

Well, Lucky Eddie says, the right person is at arm’s length away: The King’s Public Relations Director!

This is bad, because it infers — at least to me — that public relations tactics can mask unethical or perhaps even criminal actions through successful media relations. To many, Hagar is just trying to get some “good public relations” to solve his image problem.

Ah, Hagar, if it was only that easy.





How Obama and Hagar Help the PR Industry

Not a betting man, but I wager this is the first/only/last time you’ll read commentary on how both President Obama and Hagar the Horrible are advancing public relations.

Stay with me.  I’m not trying to be funny, although Hagar is funny most of the time.  These days, the President doesn’t have much to laugh about.

This is being written a few hours before the President delivers his first State of the Union speech.  Rest assured, he will talk about the economy and job creation, cutting spending and healthcare, government reform and last week’s major Supreme Court decision.

The President also will talk about public relations, in a way.  Specifically, Mr. Obama is expected to point out that an Indianapolis-based communications firm, TrendyMinds, has experienced 200 percent growth, is hiring and has given back to the community in the form of in-kind advertising and public relations support to eight non-profits.  The 2009 volunteer effort was valued at $50,000.   They plan to do more this year. The firm is small:  Seven people and two dogs are listed under the Contacts.

TrendyMinds principal Trevor Yager is expected to be in Washington tonight. I learned about this development from the MyRagan.com PR Junkie blog posted today.  Paid a visit to the TrendyMinds site, but could not find a reference to the State of the Union speech tonight.  But I’ll be watching.

Now to Hagar.  For those of you unfamiliar, Hagar the Horrible is a long-running comic strip written by Chris Browne and distributed by King Features Syndicate.  It chronicles a roguish Viking who likes to pillage and drink beer.  Hagar has a running battle with his wife, Helga, and keeps a nitwit sidekick named Lucky Eddie.

In the January 26 strip, Hagar, Lucky Eddie and other Vikings are leaving a castle, carrying sacks and chests of loot.  There’s another guy addressing the owner of the just-robbed castle: “We’re conducting a survey, sir … We have a few questions about the quality of our raiding … and if our people were courteous and professional at all times?”  Lucky Eddie asks: “Who’s that guy?” “He’s with a public relations firm I just hired to improve our image!,” Hagar replies.

The payoff for those reading this far:  The President is identifying the tremendous work and spirit of a spirited, growing communications firm.  This sends a positive message — that the industry is vital and remains a valuable part of business.  I’m sure Mr. Obama could have identified lots of small businesses that are bucking the trend in this recession.  He selected a firm that delivers messages.

As for Hagar, I’m impressed that he enlisted his PR firm to initiate research!  All sound, effective public relations plans are based on research. Too often our profession is bundled into pure publicity, or as a leading Chicago agency leader said at a reception earlier this year, delegated “to blowing up balloons.”

Looking forward to tonight’s address, and what Hagar is up to tomorrow.