EDITORIAL: Agencies should be anxious to put their work on display, instead of shrouding it in secrecy

Explaining exactly what PR people actually do may seem easy, but it isn't always so. There are times when the industry seems downright secretive, which I'm convinced is not always to its benefit.

Explaining exactly what PR people actually do may seem easy, but it isn't always so. There are times when the industry seems downright secretive, which I'm convinced is not always to its benefit.

For example, at PRWeek we report the launch of a campaign, and analyze its successful (and sometimes unsuccessful) completion. But what happens in the middle is not always clear. We are keen to examine campaigns and programs as they unfold, not just at their inception and conclusion. But I was dismayed by some of the responses I got when I recently broached the idea with a number of PR firms. Let me be clear: I understand perfectly the issues of client confidentiality, and the reluctance of clients to give the media access to ongoing strategy. I even understand that agencies may be unwilling to give away their strategic and tactical nuances, and anticipated objections along these lines. What I did not expect was a knee-jerk aversion to the idea, based on a belief that allowing the media a closer look at the actual work that PR people do is "risky." More than one firm has deemed it thus in response to my queries, based on the fact that campaigns do not always follow a predictable trajectory. Political, financial, and cultural factors can influence the direction of a program in a moment, and some in the agency world felt that those variables are what make closer examination of the work problematic. I find this objection baffling. One of the chief virtues of PR is its inherent flexibility. Thoughtful measurement and tracking of a campaign's progress means a company and its counsel can make a strategic shift immediately if it is not going according to plan. It would be nice if we could tell that story, and if PR agencies would embrace this quality rather than hide. PR industry gets its turn in the spotlight The PRWeek Awards will be held this week at Tavern on the Green in New York City's Central Park. In these final days before the winners are revealed, I think it's worth reflecting on what an event like this really means. Unlike the ad industry, which is famously self-congratulatory, the PR industry has only a handful of opportunities to celebrate its creativity and contribution to the marketing mix - and to the bottom line. Accustomed to stepping aside and allowing others to take the spotlight, PR practitioners are still getting used to the concept of letting peers judge their efforts. Submitting a campaign, individual, corporate team, or agency for recognition is a way of qualifying success internally and externally. Occasions like these, and the recognition they bestow, offer far more than just an ego trip, a marketing tool, or a morale boost to hardworking staffers. The profession as a whole gains greater credibility as examples of its finest thinking are put on display. Now more than ever, it is important that the industry demonstrate solidarity, and a commitment to increasing the relevance and recognition of PR across the board. While the Awards highlight a sampling of the best work out there, they also encourage and empower PR practitioners to pursue excellence, and find meaningful ways to measure the success of their efforts.

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