Drug Lord, ‘El Chapo’, Wants a Piece of PR?!

Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, the recently imprisoned Mexican drug lord who was considered the “most powerful drug trafficker in the world,” and has killed thousands, banked in the millions, and escaped prison twice, is now desperate to keep his reign by launching a Public Relation’s campaign to keep his name in the media. It’s situations like these that make me think, don’t we have the right to downright tell a client, “hell no.

Lately, the mother of his children Emma Coronel, has given unprecedented interviews and shed light to apparent health concerns Guzman might be facing because of the conditions he’s enduring while in prison. One of Guzman’s sisters, has claimed to be “very worried” outside the prison where his “PR” team has set up one of their shops to spread the message that Guzman would like to be extradited to the United States as soon as possible, with talk of encouraging a hunger strike from supporting Mexicans.

“Let’s see: eye candy in the news, kids to pull at your heartstrings, concerns over an older man’s health. Sounds like PR 101,” Shawn Paul Wood said in his PR Newser article.

There was an article titled, “‘El Chapo’: A Master Of Social Media” by 5WPR, that recognized the drug lord’s personal use and advantage of “citizen journalism,” and getting a message out through unconventional means. Actor Sean Pean got a story published in the Rolling Stones by interviewing Guzman not too long after his escape from prison in 2015, which has been condemned by many in the public. That interview left me perplexed with jumbled contrasting thoughts concerning what can be determined as good journalism while simultaneously defining good ethics?

“Political and legal ramifications aside, the episode raises a few key questions for PR pros to consider.  We’re not going to try and figure out Guzman’s motivation for the secret meeting—which may doom him to a life in prison—but he was able to demonstrate that if you have a message you want to distribute to the world you don’t necessarily need the New York Times, ABC News or Reuters as a media conduit.” – Cary Labowitz from 5WPR

At first, the drug lord was his own PR. But now, like most stories in the news come and go as quick as they came, his name has not appeared everywhere since his last escape. While on the run, ‘El Chapo’ had the interview with Sean Pean, attempted to get movie deals,  but now since he’s been caught and spending his time in prison, despite the openness of communication with friends and family, he demands more.

This drug lord, who has seen benefits of launching a Public Relation’s campaign, leaves me with a couple of thoughts as an aspiring strategic communicator. One, like lawyers who represent people very seemingly guilty, there are times a PR Manager will have to do the same; despite the inhumanity in their client. Secondly, the value of Public Relation’s all together. Even the worlds’ once titled “Public Enemy Number One” recognizes the power through creating a relationship with the public that could benefit  his image and his name. I think ‘El Chapo’ has acknowledged his reign has come to a close, but by building his brand through methods of strategic communications, he foresees his legacy living on. Not only the support, but attention, from the public and the media can be a very powerful thing; who’d have thought the most powerful truck trafficker in the world would be able to recognize that.


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