What would happen in a PR strike?

Everyone seemed so intently focused on the recent strike, where our favorite shows were delayed or pushed back as the writers waited for a better deal (or a fair one, depending on your position).

Everyone seemed so intently focused on the recent strike, where our favorite shows were delayed or pushed back as the writers waited for a better deal (or a fair one, depending on your position).

Finally, the strike has ended. So that got me thinking: What if every PR pro went on strike?

To make this an exercise that gets beyond the statement of "that would never happen," we have to make a few assumptions and ignore a few facts. To start off, we're not a unionized profession. Also, the lines of what a PR pro looks like are becoming so blurred that it would be hard to quantify. If we threw bloggers in the mix (which I certainly hope we would not), half the country would then be out of work. So we'll go with defining PR pros as agency, corporate, nonprofit, or full-time independent practitioners.

For starters, you'd have a lot of nervous journalists. Who would provide them with roughly 60% of their story leads, facts, background information, interview access, or exclusive information? What would they do if all of a sudden they had to do all of the background work themselves? We'd have a lot of speculative stories and coverage of pretty boring events that the news media are invited to (grand openings, news conference, book signing, etc).

Next, the financial investors wouldn't have a lot of information to go on because all the analysts would actually have to do research themselves. Jim Cramer's producers would have a lot more work to do finding information on pressing companies and stocks.

Let's not forget the organizations that, when faced with a product release, crisis, community relations event, or sales push, would be pretty much left out to dry. I guess they could try to advertise their way out of a crisis. I can see the CEO and executives of a major company whose product just inadvertently poisoned thousands of innocent babies running an advertisement on TV that says, "Our product doesn't kill. Really! You can trust me!"

With regard to consumer sales, people sometimes act like sheep. They hear about a cool product, learn that there are massive lines forming to buy it, don't want to be left out, and, in turn, join the fray. How does that happen? Because of a groundswell of anticipation that is built through successful PR.

Whether people want to believe it or not, PR influences things that they do and think every day of their life. It is one of the most underappreciated, yet incredibly effective marketing functions.

I'm not suggesting that we do go on strike, but think about the work you do for your organization or clients, and ask yourself what would happen if it suddenly went away.

For most of us, as with most successful programs, it would be a gradual impact, but also a significant one. I hate to equate us to the waste-management industry, but without us, life would get a lot more rotten. It would also probably start to stink after a few days.

Robert Amberg is the VP and GM of Cushman/Amberg Communications.

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