Why the PR Industry is Shooting Itself in the Foot & What We Can Do About It
If you listen very carefully you can hear a rumble. It’s a guttural noise far off in the distance that you’re probably not even aware of. Like the stampede of a hundred elephants across the savannah. But it’s there. And it’s ever-so-slowly getting closer, becoming louder. That, my friend, is the sound of an uprising. A disturbance in the force of public relations, if you will. And it’s happening because a lot of people are getting very peed off with the way traditional PR folks seem set on a path of self-destruction.
I don’t know what it is about the PR industry, but we (and I use the term loosely) seem determined not to practice what we preach. Public relations takes a periodic battering from other marketing disciplines and in the media for being flaky and lacking credibility, and yet at times we not only do nothing to build our own reputation as an industry, but we seem intent on actively destroying it.
Just last week there was a high profile ‘coming together’ when one very well-respected agency laid into another on its blog, criticising the way the latter had handled blogger outreach for a new client. The incident may have been more of a case of handbags at ten paces than anything else, but the disappointing thing about the whole issue for me was that the agency in question (and let’s be honest, we all know it was Wolfstar) felt the need to post such a piece in the first place. It prompted nearly 30 comments on the original blog post, mostly criticising Wolfstar, numerous tweets and made it into PR Week. Leaving aside the fact that the slated agency had beaten Wolfstar in pitching for the client, and the fact that the criticised individual is one of the most respected PR people I know, it was genuinely saddening for me to see yet another example of ‘old skool’ PR agencies attacking one another.
Then there are services like this; a cheap PR rip-off that does nothing but undermine the good work that the industry does. This is ‘McPR'; it’s like a Big Mac compared to a 16oz Porterhouse steak. It’s not just in the UK that this kind of thing occurs, either. Hot on the heels of #wolfstargate (as it was rather comically tagged on Twitter), came a post on the excellent PRBreakfastClub blog calling for action to stop the “baseless attacks” on a hard working profession. The writers, quite rightly in my opinion, say that “the PR industry is failing – quite badly – to uphold its own reputation”. We’re subject to attacks like this one, which was posted in the last couple of days. And yet not only do we do nothing about it, but we attack each other publicly as well. Are we stupid?!
But there’s room for much optimism due to that metaphoric rumbling that I mentioned earlier (and I apologise for the mixed metaphors in that first paragraph!). There is a new breed of PR professionals out there who are determined to work in collaboration, to offer each other advice and support, and to share ideas and thoughts. Those of us lucky enough to work for more progressive agencies also have the backing of our employers in this approach. And I’m convinced that this ‘collective’ will come to the fore in the near future.
I talk on Tribal Boogie about virtual tribes; people who share and people with whom we have an affinity. Well, this collective is MY tribe; we talk the same language and we want the best for the community. And I hope to introduce you to some of them and their thoughts and insights into this issue right here in the coming weeks. Subscribe now and keep your eyes peeled for more…
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