OPINION: Why everyone wants a piece of the PR pie

It strains credulity to imagine that a company or a serious individual would hire the services of, let's say, an accountant and then fill in their own tax return.

Ian Monk
Ian Monk

Or that they would recruit the services of a lawyer, only to file their own court papers.

To retain such services is to delegate crucial briefs to people with particular professional expertise allied to obligations of absolute confidentiality. Their clients accept, largely without question, the hegemony of the lawyers and the accountants to operate responsibly and accountably within the parameters in which they have been hired.

Why can it not be the same for PROs? What is it about our industry that induces so many outside it, and sometimes in need of its services, to harbour the illusion that anyone can be a PR professional?

Should we be flattered that so many disparately talented, brilliant and often successful people spend valuable time imagining how they might better perform our job than we can? Perhaps it is a natural symptom of our age and the almost universal fascination exerted by the media on all walks of life.

Maybe it is a reflection on the importance of the PRO's work in handling media in publicity and reputation management. And yet, as one outstanding member of our profession told me last week, it can also be bloody annoying.

His particular gripe was the client who told him that getting coverage in every national newspaper of his brand's event was easy - 'I could do it with half a dozen phone calls'. What he wanted from his agency was 'something brilliant that no-one else has ever done'. Would that client, we mused, have expressed similar sentiments in his brief to his City accountants or lawyers?

Most of us have experienced the frustration of the client who, against all sensible advice, knows best and talks without our knowledge to a media 'friend'.

The panic call usually comes just before the story is published with the plea to put the genie back in the bottle. Or it comes post-publication in the plaintive form of the familiar 'I've been stitched up' narrative.

And how we all dread any permutation of the words 'the CEO/marketing director did PR once/has good friends in the media/lives next door to (name of rival agency)'.

Good PR has its own unique offering of experience, knowledge, understanding and solutions. We should jealously guard our skills and sell them dearly - especially to those who in their fantasies would usurp our excellence.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and was formerly a senior newspaper executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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