Agony Uncle: Trevor Morris on the Trump campaign, crowded offices and being more 'fun'

PRWeek's Agony Uncle answers questions on the Trump campaign, PR's maths ceiling, overcrowded flower beds and being more 'fun'.

Most PR flowers thrive in a busy flower bed, says Trevor Morris (©ThinkstockPhotos)
Most PR flowers thrive in a busy flower bed, says Trevor Morris (┬ęThinkstockPhotos)

Award to the wise

What chance the Trump presidential campaign winning any of the many ‘PR campaign of the year’ awards?

Not a lot. The PR industry tends to dress a little to the left of centre – at least in public – and is always keen to be seen to be liberal and caring.

The Trump campaign succeeded for a variety of reasons, but it certainly wasn’t because it used a lot of top PR people, spent a lot on advertising or had a multi-layered, integrated social-media strategy.

However, those who claim that the rise of Trump, and indeed the EU referendum’s Leave campaign, were great victories over ‘the bubble’ may also need to reflect on just how big the much-derided bubble is – more people voted for Hillary Clinton than Trump, and Leave was hardly a landslide. These are all things the industry is struggling to come to terms with.


It doesn’t add up

Why are there still relatively few PR people in the ‘C-Suite’?

Primarily because PR tends to have a small budget (compared with that of other business functions) and can’t easily prove that it works. An additional problem is that most PR people are hopeless at maths, and being able to count is highly regarded by chief executives, finance directors and investors.

Will this change soon? Well, I believe Nostradamus was predicting something to this effect in 1555. Meanwhile, PR continues to grow and prosper at a rate that many professions and trades can only envy.


You having a laugh?

We recently lost a pitch, despite the client saying we were very professional and knowledgeable. When pushed as to what the winner had that we didn’t, the answer came back: "A sense of fun." What the **** does that mean?

It means most clients want to work with people they like and make them smile. PR firms have raised their game and their proposals have become more professional. This, rather ironically, means that the softer virtues, like charm, fun and good humour, have become even more important differentiators when deciding whom to hire.

I wouldn’t worry too much. There are plenty of clients out there who have no sense of humour and are as dull as a four-page special supplement on the office-supplies market.

Spaced out

We have been growing quickly and our office is now overcrowded. Desks are pushed together and there is little or no space for things. The boss says we are unlikely to be able to move for at least another year. I like the firm and atmosphere, but hate the working conditions. Should I move jobs?

In my experience neat, tidy offices with lots of space lack atmosphere. Most PR flowers seem to thrive best in a busy flower bed. Everyone knows what everyone else is doing and shares ideas. The banter is good and the sense of group effort strong. Place a PR flower in a pot on its own desk near a window and it looks lonely, a little sad and soon dries out, as no one remembers to water it. Firms with a good atmosphere are much harder to find than those with lots of office space. Stay where you are.

Trevor Morris is co-author of PR Today and Richmond University's professor of PR

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