So, yes, Bruce Buschel (that’s not a photo of him) has experience working with PR firms. He’s been a client and a journalist in need of their services. And lately, thanks to some truly awful experiences with a few PR firms, he’s not too keen on the whole PR industry.
On the New York Times You’re The Boss blog, which covers small business, Buschel describes what happened when he tried to work with a PR firm to promote his new restaurant.
Short version: it didn’t go well.
Long version: “As the October opening approached, nary a word had been written about the restaurant….After months of working on the Southfork account, the P.R. people had arrived at a few conclusions: a) this blog was a problem, either scooping them or getting in their way, b) other area restaurants were equally sustainable and/or organic, and c) ‘We have to taste your food in order to get excited about doing our jobs.'”
The second firm he hired sent him an unsolicited three-page document full of what “we had done wrong. Let us count the ways: wrong food, wrong presentation, wrong prices, wrong service, wrong approach, wrong recipes, wrong name. Really. Wrong name.”
From all this he concludes that he’d rather be on Twitter than employ a PR firm, and plus: “It would be crazy to categorize all public relations people as crazy, so let’s just say that P.R. people drive me crazy. All of them. As a client, as an interviewer of clients, as an avoider of clients they are selling too hard, and now as a client again. What I have finally come to understand is that P.R. people are paid to twist reality into pretzels and convince you that they are fine croissants. At some point, they actually believe their own concoctions.”
Not surprisingly, PR practitioners jumped into the comments saying that Buschel probably was expecting too much. Said one:
My takeaway is that you confounded the first firm with a launch date that was a moving target, competing do-it-yourself communications (your blog), a basic lack of differentiation (if it was, in fact, true that there were competitors who shared your sustainable/organic vibe), and probably some deficit in your own knowledge base that led to misunderstandings and poorly-calibrated expectations.
Another commenter wrote:
I’ve worked with many PR firms, and I can tell you that a vendor sending a three page document listing improvements screams of an exasperated vendor responding to an overly demanding client that is unclear on what direction they want from the vendor. Without having inside knowledge of the event, I would be willing to guess that this PR firm was at wit’s end and sent this email as a final attempt at getting the working relationship back on track.
We expect to see a follow-up post based on the amount of traffic and comments this one’s getting. We don’t know both sides of the story, only Buschel’s side, but what seems unequivocally true is that he is painting a big industry with a very broad brush.