Ours is a wonderfully self-congratulatory industry. We pat ourselves on the back regularly for the brilliant work we do, we point out (somewhat obliquely, it has to be said) the contribution we make to the bottom line of the companies we represent and we position the industry as one populated by competent professionals that deserve a seat at the boardroom table.
Unfortunately, external perceptions rarely match that rarified view and I’m constantly hearing moans from PR industry luminaries complaining that PR isn’t being taken seriously.
Well, here’s an example of why. The Beeb’s technology correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones, recently tweeted the following:
PR:"The client has asked if it is possible to see pre proof of the article you are writing – would this be at all possible? They have assured me they just want to see it" What do we think, hacks of Twitter?!— Rory Cellan-Jones (@ruskin147) April 2, 2019
Now Rory’s question was rhetorical, he already knew the response he was going to get, but it’s worth having a look at the justifiably venomous comments from the hacks (and some flacks) that did reply.
Thankfully most in the industry know it’s a stupid request to make but it’s just one example of numerous random acts of stupidity that tarnish the PR industry’s reputation.Ian Hood, chief executive and founder of Babel PR
Thankfully, most in the industry know it’s a stupid request to make but it’s just one example of numerous random acts of stupidity that tarnish the PR industry’s reputation.
The real question is who we should blame? The flack who asked? No, they are doubtless a junior member of staff who was asked to do so by a misguided or badly educated client.
Is it the client who is at fault? Nope, they aren’t the expert (we have evidence for that). The fault lies with the agency principals who allow this sort of thing to happen.
If Rory had time, and I’m sure he hasn’t, I’d like to see him fire off an expletive-laden message to the agency principal in question.
That might actually have some impact.
So, if we want perceptions of the industry to improve, it really is a case of ‘physician, heal thyself’.
It is possible to train people properly and to instil some discipline in those we place in the firing line, and it’s also possible to educate clients.
If clients fail to listen, dump them. The reality is that, in the long term, your relationships with media are likely to be much more important than your relationship with a single client.
Ian Hood is the chief executive and founder of Babel PR