America's big PR players, those creative bastions of copying and trying to out-hype one another, are locked in a fierce dog-eat-dog title fight. The title of vice president, which once looked good on a business card, is now relegated to new hires. Agencies are duking it out to contrive the mostest, bestest grandiloquent job title!
Edelman has been in the lead with "Executive Vice President/Global Strategy and Insights." Gives me chills just to write it. They have more "Vice Global Chairs" and "Global Chairs" of this or that than you can count.
Weren't you once famous …?
Fleishman-Hillard describes members of its "International Advisory Board" as "a jaw-dropping list of distinguished thought leaders," just in case you've never heard of a few. Their purpose, of course, is to attract new clients who are impressed by meeting VIPs with "former …" on their CVs.
Burson-Marsteller trails the pack, with such titles as, "Director and Media Strategist, Global Consumer and Brand Marketing Practice." Lame, if you ask me. I think Burson-Marsteller might consider the double entendre of their domain name, "BM.com."
I bet you've never heard of Roger Collier, probably because he just calls himself, "Writer." But, he's one smart guy (perhaps because he doesn't write about the PR industry).
Collier, who writes for The Ottawa Citizen, asks, "What's the deal with all these grandiose job titles?" in a very clever piece on his blog. His blog, by the way, has the low-key name, RogerCollier.com.
Sometimes work is just work.
"When I ask people what they do at work, they sometimes respond, instead, by telling me what they are called at work," Collier writes. "This happens, I believe, because they are themselves unsure of what exactly they do. A typical response might be: 'I'm a strategic advisor on dynamic planning.' So, you, uh, go to meetings?"
Collier points to a recent article in The Economist magazine that claimed title inflation—also known as "uptitling" or "title-fluffing"—is getting out of hand. Kodak has a "chief listening officer." The BBC has a "vision controller of multiplatform and portfolio." Receptionists are now "directors of first impressions."
Makes me wonder what all those "Global Chairs" and "International Jaw-Dropping Advisors" really do to earn an honest day's wages—beyond trying to sell fluff.
In his book "The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work," Alain de Botton notes that adult characters in children's literature rarely have important-sounding jobs, according to Collier. "They are shopkeepers, builders, cooks, or farmers—people whose labour can easily be linked to the visible betterment of human kind," he writes.
"As creatures innately aware of balance and proportion, we cannot help but sense that something is awry in a job title like 'Brand Supervision Coordinator, Sweet Biscuits.'"
By the way, because he lives in Canada, I think Collier deserves the title, "Global Writer."
David Henderson is author of four books on the media and communications, He is an Emmy Award-winning former CBS News correspondent and communications strategist based in Washington, D.C.