Agony Uncle: Trevor Morris on pseudo football fans, being a good boss and the value of apprentices

The co-author of PR Today and Richmond University's professor of PR gives it to you straight.

Leave football to the fans and the pseuds

Why does everyone in business talk about football? I hate football
Talking football is meant to prove you are of the people – not a public school elitist. Tony Blair fondly recalled watching a player who had in fact retired before he was born. David Cameron forgot who he supported. And many PR people are the same – passionate fans for teams they never actually see play. Try saying: "I’ll never forget when Rochdale won the cup." If your listener nods sagely they are a footbull-shitter. If they break eye contact and stare at the floor, it means they couldn’t care less. And if they angrily shout "but Rochdale have never won the cup" they are a football fanatic who needs to get out more. The reality is the majority of people are indifferent to football. So don’t be tempted to join in. The real fans will know you are faking it and the pseudo fans will be too busy faking it to notice what you are up to.

Humanising tips on being a good boss

Do you have any tips on how to be a good boss? I no longer throw phones at people but I don’t sense any affection from my staff
There are two main ways to be a good boss. First, MBWA – manage by walking about. Get out from beh­ind your desk. Walk about and ask people questions not just about work, but their lives. Aim to know at least one thing about everyone in the office: their favourite TV series, the name of their partner, etc. In no time you will be able to talk to them like human beings rather than ‘staff’. People like that. Second, RATs – random acts of thanks. If everyone always gets the same reward – a year-end bonus or a bottle of Champagne – then the benefit is soon lost as it becomes an expectation. Surprise people. Give them something personal and at a time when they aren’t expecting it.

Reality behind the promise

As a client, what should I think of firms that promise senior people and a virtual network of experts but don’t reveal who their clients are?
What that means in non-PR-speak is that they are small outfits that work with freelancers and don’t have many clients yet. This may be a good thing but, usually, the moment they start to grow their senior people bec­ome as rare as Labour MPs in Scotland, the freelancers are hired full time and the website will fill with client logos.

The value of an apprentice

The PRCA is forever pushing apprenticeships. Are apprentices just a poor man’s PR graduate?
You could say apprentices are a rich man’s PR graduate as they are considerably cheaper to hire. I would add that my experience of apprentices has been excellent. The sort of people who become apprentices seem to be clear thinking, practical and devoid of any sense that the world owes them a living. A fair number of students study PR because they can’t think of anything else to do. Apprent­ices know exactly what they want to do. They have decided university is not for them and want to get their hands dirty straight away. PR graduates can be first class, but God forbid our hugely varied profession ever turns into a graduate monoculture. Diversity isn’t just about ethnicity and gender and a university education isn’t the answer to everything.

Got a problem? Contact Trevor at agonyuncle@haymarket.com

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