Agony Uncle: Is the Today programme worth it? And how do I define a disaster?

From the December edition of PRWeek: The co-author of PR Today and Richmond University's professor of PR gives it to you straight.

Is Radio 4’s Today programme a waste of time?

I work in consumer PR, but have been told I should listen to the Today programme. What is the point?

All our coverage is on social media or in lifestyle magazines.The point is to understand the political, regulatory and economic landscape. If you don’t then when your client is attacked by an NGO or activist group, finds itself the subject of a parliamentary debate or is hit by economic change you will be left looking and sounding as useful as a Micky Mouse umbrella in a hurricane. It is true that the gap bet–ween everyday marketing PR and corporate PR has grown bigger with the advent of social media. But the marketing PR practitioners who will add the most value – and have the most interesting careers – will be the ones who not only understand what makes ‘good social media content’ but also understand what the political and chattering classes are thinking and doing and warn of any dangers.

Chicken and the egg

Do you agree that it is more important to be respected than liked?

It is hard to be successful if people don’t respect you, and people who try too hard to be liked aren’t always respected. But they aren’t mutually exclusive. People who say you must be respected before you can be liked are usually people who are fundamentally unlikeable and are trying to justify their own shortcomings. It is certainly possible to be respected despite being unlikeable, but surely it is much better to be both respected and liked. If you don’t much like people, they are unlikely to much like you. And if you don’t much like people, PR seems an odd choice of career.

Success has many mothers

I have found out that a former colleague got their current job by claiming all the glory for an award-winning campaign that I in fact created and did all the heavy lifting on. All she did was sell it into the media. What, if anything, can be done to stop this sort of immoral behaviour?

One of my favourite sayings is: "Success has many mothers. Failure is always an orphan." Your ex-colleague would no doubt say the selling in is what made the campaign. And if she was present when you ‘created’ the idea she no doubt thinks she was part of that creative process. Would you have credited her for her contribution if you had been applying for a job? Get over it. I have seen much worse. A former colleague had a leaving party at his flat to celebrate getting a very good job abroad. Someone – OK it was me – saw his application portfolio and took a look. He was claiming to be the father of campaigns he hadn’t actually worked on. And it isn’t just PR. Some of the most famous advertising campaigns would appear to have had more mothers than a busy maternity unit.

Disastrous difference

What is the difference between a disaster and a PR disaster?

A disaster is when people have been wronged, hurt or killed. A PR disaster is when the behaviour and communication of an organisation causes people to lower their trust, respect and liking for that organisation. The death of two children on a Thomas Cook holiday was a disaster for the children and their friends and family. The company’s handling of the aftermath was a PR disaster.

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