PR agencies rebranding as PR agencies - please stop

I think it was early 2016 at another 'Future of PR' event when I'd had enough; all 17 stone of me lurched forward to intercept the microphone from some poor, weary, events administrator.

Stop this madness - it does none of us any good, pleads John Brown
Stop this madness - it does none of us any good, pleads John Brown

We were in the midst of a perfectly diverse panel discussing what PR means. My question was this; how, in 2016, are we still having a panel debate on whether the PR industry should still call itself PR?

Have we nothing else to discuss?

Fast forward to 2018 and I am staggered to see we’re not only still talking about this nonsense, but some are even acting on it.

M&C Saatchi PR has rebranded to M&C Saatchi Public Relations, in a bid to bring more clarity to what it does.

Presumably having discovered it was ‘PR’ that was causing all the confusion rather than, ‘Saatchi’.

Before we had time to digest that fatty, self-indulgent, morsel, Golin (an agency I have long admired and still do) decided to place its flag on PR mountain.

Or at least move it an inch to the centre. It came out with an announcement that it was time for a big PR agency to also declare it was all about PR.

Rather than continue to highlight the absurdity in all this, I thought it best to summarise three reasons why I believe this game of, ‘who can prove they’re the most public relationsy PR agency’, has to end.

1) It’s lazy. Adding public relations to the name of a public relations agency sounds like an idea that emerges after a dedicated and rigorous ketamine binge. If our creative talents stretch as far as spelling out an acronym, then we really are in danger.

2) It’s distracting. This will spur on another age of debate as to whether we are PR or not. Conferences, PR meet-ups and roundtables will now be littered with panels and keynotes on this pointless subject. All the while real issues are cast aside in favour of this ridiculous comfort blanket. 

3) It’s alarmingly tactical. Golin, for me, represents an organisation that’s brave. It’s not afraid to put its money where its mouth is on tough issues such as diversity and talent. I’d argue bravery is a far more powerful message to place at the heart of a brand than PR.

A repositioning should be capturing, concentrating and communicating an emotive purpose.

These announcements have done little more than bottle apathy and distil it into hot air. It’s worrying, daft and above all, total bollocks.

John Brown is the founder of Don’t Cry Wolf

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