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Want to enlist? US Army says it wants "shrinks"

July 21, 2011
by Dennis Grantham, Editor-in-Chief
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There it was, right in front of me: A headline and news release, paid for at taxpayer expense and circulated nationally:"In Search of Shrinks: U.S. Army Recruiting Aims to Meet Behavioral Health Provider Mission."

Some of the rest of this news release, which is datelined today from Fort Knox Kentucky, follows, but it's the headline that stopped me. It turns out that, as the release says, "Uncle Sam has a message for America's psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and social workers as well as graduate students entering those fields: consider a career in the U.S. Army. In addition to substantial signing bonuses, competitive pay and generous benefits, Army behavioral health careers offer many opportunities for professional development in a dynamic work setting."

The release goes on to say that the Army offers a "one of the most comprehensive health scholarships available today, one that covers tuition, fees, books, and coves with a monthly stipend of more than $2,000." Hmm... given that many behavioral health workers are, according to the National Council, paid a little bit less than fast-food workers, maybe that's really attractive. I'm not ridiculing the Army, or its efforts to recruit professionals, but the headline rings wrong.

As a taxpayer, the first thing that I did (just now) was call the PR contact--a woman at a large national PR agency--and ask, "Who wrote the headline?" After saying that she had, she assured me that "the Army approved it." Good, I thought, it went through channels. When the woman asked me for additoinal feedback, I introduced myself and my magazine and told her that I didn't think that the release would do very well because it was insulting to its target audience.

What I didn't say was that no reader of this magazine will see that story until I see it rephrased--from the source. For a moment, I thought of some other really clever pseudo-insults to play on--really tempting--but unlike the Army's PR firm, I'm not going to go there, even if it seems really clever in the moment. I think the Army should rethink this approach.

How about all of you "shrinks" out there--what do you think?



Well Said...how would they like it if we called them GI Joes?

POSTSCRIPT: I recently received a very polite call from Nancy Longley, a Weber-Shandwick vice president and head of the agency's healthcare practice. She expressed regret, on behalf of the Army and the agency, for the "exceedingly poor choice of words" used in the headline of the news release and for the distraction that this mistake caused, in view of the Army's acute need for skilled behavioral health practitioners. She acknowledged that our criticism was accurate and on target.

Dennis Grantham

Dennis Grantham



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