The truth, of course, is that good PR is rarely a glamorous or even interesting pursuit. Indeed, the challenge of PR is often to create the interest that an otherwise mundane existing product lacks.
Take, for example, the Renault Espace. It's a car even Renault must admit is mind-bogglingly boring. Aesthetically it is all about square lines and brutal styling. The Espace is an MPV - a multi-purpose vehicle - and all of these purposes are boring. Its customer base is hardly filled with celebrities or fashionistas either, and it's been on the market for years.
So here's the challenge: take a boring car that's been around for decades, that has a boring target market of people who use it for boring things, and generate editorial.The PR team at Renault have done just that, and they've done it brilliantly.
On July 1 it distributed a 944-word press release announcing the 20th anniversary of the introduction of the Espace. It described the invention, history and continued success of the Espace.
An anniversary is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but just because it's an old trick does not mean it's an ineffective one. The enormous amount of positive editorial that has been generated over the past six weeks marks out the Espace anniversary campaign as one of the finest examples of PR in recent history. By revisiting the history and origins of the brand, Renault has quite simply re-invigorated the Espace.
The tactic can backfire, though. In 1997, when the 28th Olympiad was awarded to Athens, the spiritual home of the Olympic movement, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) must have thought that it was on to a winner.
By returning to Greece the Olympic brand should have celebrated its history while simultaneously reinvigorating itself. In truth, the juxtaposition of the Olympic ideals of the past and the current carnival of greed that represents today's Olympics has not been positive.
Just before the Athens Games opened, a small group of retired history professors organised a re-enactment of the ancient Games on a hillside up the road from the Olympic stadium. Anyone in a toga could take part and for an afternoon people of all shapes and sizes competed for nothing more than an olive crown. Contrast that with star 'Olympian' Michael Phelps, who was offered a $1m (£546,000) purse by sponsor Speedo if he could win seven gold medals. Contrast it with the recent revelation that almost a quarter of the IOC committee that is responsible for city selection are, according to the BBC, open to bribery. Contrast it, too, with the unseemly greed of potential host cities such as London and the ridiculous, multibillion-pound sums needed to run the Games.
The empty stadia that have greeted the various Olympic events thus far are not just a result of poor marketing on the part of the Greek organisers.
They are a jarring testament to a brand that has lost its way.
In the short term the Olympics may be a billion-dollar operation. But sales and sponsors are not the most revealing metrics of a brand's health.
There are long-term questions about the state of the Olympics.
When a global brand is run by former athletes and bureaucrats, it will inevitably flounder. What the Olympics needs now is solid, experienced brand management. Maybe someone from Renault can help them out.
- Mark Ritson is assistant professor of marketing at London Business School
30 SECONDS ON ... MICHAEL PHELPS
- The 18-year-old American swimmer set seven world swimming records at the FINA World Championships in July. He competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics at the age of 15.
- His contract with Speedo runs until 2009 and offers him a $1m (£560,000) bonus if he wins seven Olympic gold medals, either during the current Athens Olympics or the 2008 Beijing games. This would match the record set by Mark Spitz at the 1972 Munich games.
- Phelps' income is estimated at between $350,000 and $500,000 a year (£190,000-£275,000). Speedo also contributes to his college fees.
- Speedo sponsors 16 swimmers at the Athens Olympics, as well as six divers, one synchronised swimmer and the American men's and women's water polo teams.
- Phelps collected six gold medals and two bronzes at the Athens Games.