Yeah, that’s about it.
For years, your friends at PRNewser have dared to think and write things that some in our industry aren’t too crazy about us posting. Why? We are spilling the secret sauce all over the kitchen floor … and then dance in it to show our panache.
Listicles such as: PR myths that need debunking, traits of bad PR people, the worst PR stereotypes, PR buzzwords that suck, things PR people do to piss off the media, and the highly controversial things the media does that piss off PR people are itemized retrospectives on what ails the industry we all adore.
Yet, public relations is in dire need of PR itself. And here, right on schedule, are five reasons why…
1. DIY PR. The fact that you work at a large agency (or own a smaller one) doesn’t mean people are coming to you for advice. Why? There is a muscular group of clients who flex, bow up, and say, “We can do this by ourselves.” All it takes is a half-baked release, a commercial cloaked as “news-ish,” and emails sent to generic addresses like “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
And then, after PR agencies have been fired and the bridge has burned to embers, those determined clients discover that they’re not quite as smart as they thought. The DIYers think telling whoever answers the phone to run their story will work. It makes us all look bad and there’s nothing we can do about it. Oh wait, there is: be better at what we do so they don’t leave in the first place.
2. Casting nets instead of fishing. There is professional angling and then there is putting some chum on a flimsy hook and praying for fish to bite. Likewise, there is a tailored pitch made for a single reporter who would really be interested in some news that he or she already covers…and there’s sending a crappy form email to “Dear <NAME>.”
You know what you have in common with every general assignment reporter out there: the desire to feel needed. You need a journalist to pick up that phone and they need someone to know their name before blasting out a pitch that has already been sent to 1,000 other reporters. No one likes sloppy seconds.
3. Publicists. I never realized the vast difference between a “publicist” and a “PR professional” until I had the honor to represent a few bigwigs in the musical entertainment industry. One of said moguls was sitting in a car with me on the way to the beginning of a media tour when I said, “You know, your cause is <whatever>. Let’s consider reaching out to <this different and not mainstream outlet> to help your foundation go beyond your notoriety.”
He asked me, “You mean, that can happen?” It took a PR person and a trade outlet to show both him and me the difference. We have to learn to tell a story, share a story, and make the most out of that story for others. Real journalists care more about the news than the source. They aren’t interested in dark alley embargoes or exclusives that have (not) been offered to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, that’s what some reporters think we all do.
4. Reality TV. Yeah, that. Name a “housewife,” “dating show contestant,” “Idol, Voice, or X Factor hopeful,” or whatever Snooki is calling herself today and ask yourself if they put a high premium on image. As long as they get TMZ following them to the bathroom, no one cares what their reputation with the general public might happen to be. So, instead of hiring someone to help them with media training, reputation management, and paying it forward, they hire some toolbox with a three-button collar that fits in number three above.
There is a proverb (a real one, as in the Bible) that reads, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches” (Proverbs 22:1 KJV). Those were the days. A good image can be built in years and demolished in a day — most of the time. A family of starlets who deserve no public fawning get it daily because one of the girls got a little frisky and recorded it on video — and the public thinks very little of their “handlers.”
5. The media. Confused yet? The very industry all PR professionals need to survive is the reason why we may need a brand face lift. Need clarity? Ask your mother what you do for a living. Get it now? Most people (including clients) equate PR with “media,” as in “get me on TV or the radio.” There is a world of strategy and tactics out there that matter just as much, if not slightly more. Why aren’t those others mentioned as often? Measurement.
Many agencies do not teach their teams how to get away from vanity metrics of “impressions” and AVE, so they aren’t sure how to quantify a shared blog post, a speaking opportunity, or a CSR campaign. Therefore, they don’t bother. They are resigned to be “media relations pros” and are happy with that. PR is so much more than “MR,” but few people are taught that fact and few within the industry communicate it to the outside world.
Unfortunately, it’s easier to tell mom what you do for a living if you just say that magic word.