Edward L. Bernays was most certainly the father of public relations. Some point to PT Barnum as well. But, from my perspective, the father of media training was none other than
Yes, I mean that one who was a Roman emperor for 20 years. And yes, Rome in 161 ACE had no masscommunications. More than just a stoic philosopher, Aurelius’ book, The Mediations, is the first to deal with how to talk to the media. Wise beyond his millennia, Aurelius’s words still teach us today. “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” This is central to what happens on cable news, where a parade of endless options and supposition fail to give us the whole news, and a global perspective. Aurelius did not get Comcast (and was more of a Hulu man), but he foretold what our bread and circus would become.
“It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinions than our own.” Brilliant observations that change in the pocket overshadows pie in the sky. And, that we seek validation from third parties — if some blog or magazine review says something is good, we tend to believe it. Aurelius got it.
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive — to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” Clear advice to avoid the morning cable shows, and seek a more holistic and peaceful set of news stories from deeper and more thoughtful sources.
“Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under your observation in life.” He makes a case for clear speaking, clear messaging, and directness and honestly. The only way to communicate.
“How we learn: by looking at each thing, both the parts and whole. Keeping in mind that none of them interpret how we perceive it.” Like Plato’s parable of the cave, Aurelius understood that fake news could happen. He makes the case of real media, and good reporting.
“The universe is transformation: life is opinion.” Things are always changing - we need to break it down and share the truths of change. And, there are many perspectives on the same truth.
Be yourself, be humble, have a human side in an interview.
Aurelius lived 2 thousand years ago, but if he had lived today he would be a communications master. His wisdom is still spot on today. Now I don’t want to imply that today’s America is similar to Rome at the end of the Pax Romana. It is not, we have much better TV that they did. “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”