I attended an industry event recently – you know the type, where they invite a group of PRs together to hear a presentation from a journalist or two. What did I learn?
Distressingly, I learned that it’s still standard practice to start off an event of this nature with a trashing of the PR profession, jokes about the worse pitches received and much genuflecting towards the journos who had agreed to grace us with their presence.
Why is it still standard practice to perpetuate this ‘them and us’ attitude that places the press as a dominant force and the PR as a humble disciple hungry for their attention?
I was in an audience that was predominantly female and young, which is typical for our industry.
I found it uncomfortable that these young women were being fed a myth that they were in an unworthy role in a useless profession.
PR is a channel. We negotiate on behalf of clients and on behalf of the press.
The media has changed and attitudes need to change too.
As social media allows for content to be shared without being curated by a journalist and a video from a TED Talk, for example, can provide more exposure than a one-off appearance on a broadcast news segment, the power has shifted.
Great PRs work with journalists to craft stories, understanding the benefit to the client of the exposure and the benefit to the media channel of having insight from a specialist or a case study.
The real arbitrators of the news are the public and what they click on and share, re-watch and re-read.
PR agencies can be toxic places. Bullying is rife.
But, having spent the last 10 years as a business owner, I had forgotten that agency life is really just a reflection of an outdated attitude that there is antagonism between PRs and journos and all PRs should take what’s coming to them.
Few other professions consider self-flagellation an occupational hazard.
I’m 20 years into this job and I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes, sent dodgy emails, made calls to the wrong person.
But I can also give you some cracking stories of ludicrous questions that have been asked by journalists to me and my clients.
We’re all human. The PR profession doesn’t have a monopoly on mediocre moments.
Bullying is being stamped out of even the most aggressive professions and it’s time we stamped it out of ours.
Let’s recognise the job we do – and when insulted we don’t need to laugh along.
Lucy George is founder of Wordville