Let’s do this! (Image: The Parliment [U.K.])
There is a potpourri of things that make up this great industry: people from all walks of life; diverse experiences creating premiere skill sets; campaigns that make you proud to be a PR professional. You are probably thinking of some now to fill in those blanks.
Whatever they are, cherish those memories because they make public relations what it is today.
On the other hand, if you don’t have those memories, it is probably because you have been involved in any number of inner-agency or in-house-team spats about principles of public relations. Some have come, others have gone, but at least five of them show no sign of going anywhere.
1. AVE. Let’s call out the pachyderm in the room. You know you were thinking it. Any discussion with advertising-value equivalency should begin and end with the client’s needs. Are impressions and circulation vanity metrics? Are they outdated? Are they easily abused by unscrupulous flacks? While you are nodding your head up and down, riddle me this: Do you have a client who doubts if your services are really worth that retainer? Sometimes AVE is the only arrow you have in your quiver to prove it, which is why we still debate it.
2. The PR Degree. It’s not their fault, I don’t suppose, but there are countless college grads with impressive PR degrees who get a job and just aren’t all that impressive. Sure, graduating is an accomplishment and checking that box gets you through the online application process, but what happens when you get the opportunity to do work? Do you think reciting PR theories will impress a reporter under deadline? Would an assignment desk editor want to hear the correlation between Edward Bernays and Sigmund Freud? Not really. Transferrable skills like the ability to write effectively, share a good story and understand public perception are more important than any of the words on your diploma.
3. Convergence. When your client got a little extra in the budget, he or she considered “marketing.” Unfortunately, to the untrained mind, that means either PR or advertising. Figuring billboards don’t recycle that often, you got a call and a retainer was born. That precious call is happening less and less because of convergence, or the blending of the media industry. Your clients want more — paid, earned, shared, and owned. If you can’t offer them the blessed ‘PESO,’ they will look elsewhere to spend their dinero. Learn to be nimble with their expectations (and your skills) and you will make a good friend. Don’t, and you will stay a vendor.
4. Social Media. Who gets it? Who wants it? Who understands it? Typically, social media platforms end up in a tug-of-war between PR and marketing teams. Regardless, social media should do one thing — engage. That’s why those two departments can compare sizes all they want. When they are done, they need to answer why social media will be used. Moreover, how will it be used? When they stop bickering and figure that mystery out, then they will decide the home for social media. Most clients want social media for positioning (and that’s a PR gig, just sayin’).
5. APR. Ah, yes. Some of you knew this was coming — being an accredited public relations professional. Do you have those three magic letters after your name? Why not? Was it the jaw-dropping price? Was it not really being able to understand how it gets you through the client’s door? There are several people who swear by the need for that accreditation. Granted, most of them are PRSA members, but that doesn’t stop the passion plea they have to shill for the sacrosanct APR pin. Do you need it to secure a good story? Should you have it during a new business pitch? Are you not as “much of a PR pro” if you are sans APR? Depends on who you ask.