An Open Letter to Veterans Day

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(Photo Credit: AP)

Dear Veterans Day,

I realize that writing a letter to a holiday may be a strange thing for you (and everyone out there reading), but I need to talk to you. This is your day, a day that really is one of the best CSR campaigns ever. Sorry for the PR jargon, but I want you to know that we understand what’s going on.

This day wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the heroic sacrifice and service for America’s defenders in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and Reserves. So, we want to thank them all and give them (and you, Veterans Day) the respect they richly deserve.

Still, I’m writing you on behalf of PR practitioners everywhere.

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We, the PR professionals of America, are supposed to be the people to help tell stories, guide perceptions, and mold images for consumers and the general public.

Yet, in a country where President Woodrow Wilson said, “reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory,” fewer people seem to be concerned about the meaning behind the holiday. This year, more seem pissed that all banks are closed on a Tuesday.

And that’s why I think we need to help you out.

Businesses and organizations ranging from federal to state offices and banks to the stock firms close in a day of remembrance. Meanwhile, all of us PR people flock to our cubicles, troll the Internet, and may even regret the fact that today is slow on the news front thanks to a client email questioning the results of our last report.

Some of our clients think wearing a camouflaged lapel pin would be a nice story today, and a few of us even pitch it.

Shame on us. Our bad. We and much of the rest of the nation need to do a better job of remembering what you really represent.

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I know you understand why we do it; clients pay the bills and they take precedence over pretty much everything else. However, some things require a firm stand and regretfully, we have been walking along with knobby knees, pigeon toes, and a few bunions.

You are unlike any other day that involves those pesky aforementioned closures. Holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Labor Day and MLK Day have effectively lost their meaning, but none should — specifically not Veterans Day.

Mattress sales, car discounts and retail incentives have nothing to do with the work performed by our military around the world…and we shouldn’t encourage our clients to use it for promotional purposes.

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Whether we’re planning for a Christmas campaign, strategizing for a Q4 push, or even finding a profile story about an employee who served and tries to make a difference on this day, our efforts should be about you on your day.

Forget the closures. Ignore the politics. Refuse to engage in any conversation about what’s wrong with the Middle East. Our goal on this day should be to tell a story about you. If that’s not the case, we should probably wait for another day to talk.

Hopefully, we will help lead a movement to refocus on the human stories and sacrifices behind Veterans Day. In the meantime, thank you for all that you represent.