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Public Relations

For the Record--In Mexico

Carol Miller

Living and working in Mexico, I am aware of a public relations network, available to SAA members, quite different from any that might operate in the United States. There are about 20 responsible, professional, daily papers published in Mexico City (two in English), and a variety of magazines, wire services, cultural and commercial television, university publications, organizational or institutional press offices, and of course, radio. There are newspapers in the state capitals and the rules of the game change depending on local politics. The potential for clippings or taped footage increases by the minute. Despite the differences between the media in Mexico and the United States, the approach and the underlying rules are essentially the same: (1) be organized; (2) do not volunteer random information; (3) there is no such thing as "Off the Record;" and (4) "No Comment" is anathema.

Methods, Motives, and Goals

Have your methods, motives, and goals clearly in mind. What reporters ask is never as important as what you answer. It behooves you to respond with whatever it is you want to see in print. If possible, have written material available to aid the reporter, preferably in press release format aimed at the media in question. Make your information novel, provocative, concise, explicit, and in non-technical language. Academic pieces should be viewed from a distance--look at them from an outsider's perspective. Is the message clear? Does it contribute, excite, inform?

All people tend to be ingenuous where the press is concerned and even the most worldly among us tend to give credit to what we see in print. Yet, people from the United States are generally more incautious or imprudent--and definitely more trusting--than those raised elsewhere. When you write that press release, make it credible, verify your sources, and offer a reference or contact for the reporter. But fear not. Your blood is far less appealing than a good story. The reporter only wants to do his or her job.

Community Ethic

One fundamental distinctionbetween the United States and Mexico is the policy of "national patrimony" as opposed to private or municipal jurisdiction over archaeological properties. Mexico jealously protects its cultural resources; has governmental departments in charge of studying, storing, exhibiting, and administering them, and looks less than kindly on anyone who would use or abuse working with them. The United States, on the other hand, takes the matter of archaeology more lightly and in any case, links local endeavors to a community ethic regarding its private history, as for example with the Santa Barbara [CA] Presidio project. Such a policy, of course, puts the burden of public relations on the project director and he or she is less concerned with what appears in print than with community relations. The job requires a pulse reader, sensitive to the psychological and political climate in the community, through experienced and well-connected advisers. Public relations often has little to do with press coverage.

Carol Miller is an SAA member who has served three years on the Public Relations Committee. She also is an independent researcher on matters related to archaeology and works with the El Pilar project in Belize.

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