Back when I was an advertising agency creative director working on accounts like IBM and Kraft, we'd periodically have to meet with the other members of the brand's marketing team.
Because these particular people didn't control much of the budget and their creative work wasn't very memorable, we'd didn't pay them much mind.
We'd smile and nod politely during their presentations, but as soon as they left the room, we'd forget everything they'd just said and go back to doing what we wanted to.
These people were from the brand's PR agency.
Sure, they were bright and the ideas they pitched were based on sound strategies. But advertising ruled the marketing roost back then, and there was nothing PR people could do about it.
Of course, in the past few years, things have changed. A lot. Clients are demanding breakthrough creative ideas from all of their marketing partners. And the better PR agencies are delivering. As a consequence, they're leading the direction of more campaigns - and controlling bigger portions of the budgets. It seems like it won't be long before PR agencies are winning the biggest prizes at Cannes.
I believe the time has come for the PR business to publicly embrace this change. To announce that we won't be content to play second fiddle to any ad agency – or social media or digital agency for that matter – ever again.
How do we do this? Here's one simple way to start: let's all agree to stop referring to our business by its initials.
Instead of calling it “PR,” in other words, from this day forward, let's refer to it only as public relations.
Think about it. What are the two most profitable, fastest growing businesses today? Investment banking and healthcare, right?
Well, do Wall Street denizens refer to the way they make their livings as the “IB biz?” Do doctors and research scientists refer to their livelihood as “HC?”
Of course not. Financial and healthcare professionals take their businesses very seriously. And they want everyone else to, too.
Initials may be fine if your goal is to project an informal, relaxed air. Look how Orange County took off when it started referring to itself as the OC?
But if you want to command respect, initials just ain't going to cut it.
I once worked at an advertising agency that was as successful as its name was long: Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer. It was a ridiculous mouthful for the receptionist, but she announced that name into the phone with pride every time she answered it. Our agency had buzz. People talked about our work. And business was booming. As the years went by, however, the powers that be trimmed the name to MVBMS. Gradually, our work became less interesting. A few years later, the agency was swallowed up by a conglomerate.
Sure, there are exceptions to my theory. The NFL and NBA come to mind. But when you've got LeBron James or Peyton Manning on your payroll, you can call your business whatever you want.
Why not give this a try? The next time someone asks you what you do for a living, brightly reply, “public relations,” and see how it feels.
With a little luck, it just might catch on. Sure, PRWeek would have to change its masthead, but I think that's a small price to pay.
Charlie Tercek, a former creative director at ad agencies McGarryBowen, Ogilvy, Grey, and Neighbor, is chief creative officer at GolinHarris.