10 signs you might be hurting the PR industry

September 14, 2011

Public relations

If you're not helping us ditch the spin stereotype...you might be hurting the PR industry. (Image credit: pladder.com)


Ever heard those “you might be a redneck” jokes? You know, the Jeff Foxworthy ones. If you cut your grass and find a car…you might be a redneck. If you own a homeade fur coat…you might be a redneck. Yep, I laughed at that one too?

Most of the jokes are hyperbolic like that. But a few of them might even hit close to home. Sort of an “I’ll laugh at that when I’m out in public, but if one of my friends heard that line they might say it’s about me” situation. You know, funny but also sort of a wake-up call.

Anyway, if you’re still with me and are starting to wonder why the hell I’m talking so much about Jeff Foxworthy and redneck jokes on a post about the PR industry, I promise I’m about to explain the connection. See, PR has a perception problem. A big one. We’re spin doctors. All we do is publicity. We try to get people to buy things they don’t need. But as Danny Brown says, it isn’t the industry with the problem at all — it’s some of the people in it.

I agree with Danny, but I’d take it one step further. There are people who give PR a bad name (thanks for the line, Bon Jovi), as in any industry. But there are also PR pros who I don’t think realize they’re hurting our industry’s perception. To be honest, I’ve found myself a little too close to that designation a time or two. For example…

1. If you can’t have a conversation about PR and measurement without it reverting back to impressions…you might be hurting the PR industry.

2. If you say strategy or big idea when you really mean tactic or you don’t know the difference between goals, strategies, objectives and tactics…you might be hurting the PR industry.

3. If you think a stunt is a viable PR plan just because it would be really freaking cool and generate some buzz, but you haven’t even thought about tying it back to any tangible business results…you might be hurting the PR industry.

4. If you aren’t asking your company or clients to see their business and communications goals…you might be hurting the PR industry.

5. If you are developing strategies for social media or digital channels without having conversations about how those channels integrate with the rest of the brand’s customer touchpoints…you might be hurting the PR industry.

6. If you prioritize generating buzz in the short term over managing long-term brand perception and relationships…you might be hurting the PR industry.

7. If one of your friends asks about your job, another says you do “press releases, social media and that kind of stuff” and you let the conversation go at that…you might be hurting the PR industry.

8. If you hear or read a conversation degrading PR or tossing around the spin doctors stereotype and you don’t speak up…you might be hurting the PR industry.

9. If you throw around buzzwords like influencers, ROI and viral because you think they make you sound smart…you might be hurting the PR industry.

10. If you just execute what your clients ask you to do without providing any counsel, even if you and your team are amazing at the execution part…you might be hurting the PR industry.

See the connection now? I think most PR pros would say they never do these 10 things. At least, that’s what they’d say in public. They’d even laugh at the thought of those who do. Just a note of caution…it’s fairly easy to find yourself doing some of the things on this list. Many of them do reflect the way PR has done things in the past.

But past is the keyword there. We need to leave these 10 signs — and any others you might add — in the past and move forward positioning PR as an industry that understands strategy and can uncover insights…insights that can improve our clients’ businesses.

If you’re taking steps to make that transition…you might be helping the PR industry. And we can use all the help we can get.

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bobzeit 5 pts

good post. here are two more:

"if you have ever used the mass emailing function that Cision insists is a great benefit of their system than you might be hurting the PR industry" ... and

"if you have ever emailed a reporter and said to yourself 'it can't hurt to send it to him/her," then you might be hurting the PR industry."

Bob Z.

JGoldsborough 190 pts moderator

bobzeit Yep, those are good ones :). Mass email pitches are a 100 percent PR fail.

My latest conversation: Barriers

3HatsComm 684 pts

Had the discussion about #7 before, b/c we're fighting context, something that our F&F can relate to; "oh it's like sales or events or publicity" blah blah; when you get beyond that, it almost becomes to academic to get it. That or I just bore folks to tears.

Really agree w/ #2 and #6 and think #4 and #10 are closely related. We've got to push through with clients to provide that counsel they need, get those answers we need in order to do our jobs; can't let them hide the particulars of their business, can't just 'take orders' b/c it's what the client wants - it's what they need to succeed, that's our job too. Final thought.. these are all great, but not sure if it's damaging the whole PR industry or if it's giving good PR pros a bad name? Semantics maybe, FWIW.

JGoldsborough 190 pts moderator

3HatsComm Thanks for the thoughts. Strongly agree with you on strategic counsel points you make. Yes, I do think the difference between PR industry and PR pros is semantics. Most see them as the same and have one experience, perception of the whole deal. Not unlike how customers see a company.

My latest conversation: Barriers

3HatsComm 684 pts

JGoldsborough Semantic yes, and IIRC I agreed w/ Danny that there's nothing wrong with PR; like any industry, it's the people - good and bad.

kathy_moore 6 pts

Great post! Thoughtful strategy, clear and relevant communication, and careful analysis are essential to the future of #PR.

Anthony_Rodriguez 12 pts

Very good. Now that you have established the hurt, I'd be interested to hear what you think is helping the PR industry.

JGoldsborough 190 pts moderator

Anthony_Rodriguez Good point, AR. A separate post in that is a good idea. I think one thing that helps the PR industry is to position ourselves to our clients as strategic counselors and not just PR pros. Adoption and understanding of IMC is huge. Customers don't care about PR vs. marketing vs digital vs customer service. They have one brand experience. That's what we should be focusing on. More to come...

cparente 11 pts

Great post. Although I'd swap Objectives and Strategies -- Goals, Objectives, Strategies, Tactics. True business counselors are valued, and order takers are commoditized.

JGoldsborough 190 pts moderator

cparente I don't care what order you put them in as long as we all work to understand what they are and mean :). Good call on counselors vs order takers. If all you can do is execute, there is a place for you. It's just not developing strategy and solving client problems.

Laurent 8 pts

Obviously, PR has become hugely complex due to the explosion and chaotic nature of people-powered media who, by the way, can fire-back at any missteps.

Complexity makes ignorance harder and harder to hide. Only experts survive the onslaught of problems and opportunities that comes with it.

Skills will need to be sharpened, including a fair amount of tech savviness. Mindset will need to evolve, as an example from campaign to relationship/network.

In this era of automated system processing vast amount of data, practitioners will need to interpret the data, then recommend and guide strategy and tactics with their practical, hyper-informed mind.

JGoldsborough 190 pts moderator

Laurent Good thoughts. Understanding the technology is important. But understanding the customers is most important. We should never lead with the technology. We should always lead with the customer insights.

Laurent 8 pts

Agree. I was more putting my finger on what I think is missing that you didn't mention. In this digital/social word, understanding tech/data and having the ability to research thru it is key. The vast amount of content put by customers in the course of their social interaction will brings insights if harvested properly and it's not a push-button kind of things. Techy/data research skills are needed and I don't see them out there.

donbart 8 pts

Thanks for this, Justin. Building on youir point two and adding the required AVE bashing, I might add:

- If you cannot write a measurable Objective (or even know one when you see one), you might be hurting the PR industry

- If you rely on AVEs when a client asks for the financial value of the impact delivered by PR, you might be killing the PR industry and making yourself look dumb too.

-Don B @Donbart

JGoldsborough 190 pts moderator

donbartdonbart Great points, DB. Especially the second one. We have got to stop comparing ourselves to advertising. We need to ditch the department and tactic mindset. I don't even like the words PR, marketing, advertising. We are communicators and hopefully counselors.

ginidietrich 3089 pts

Jeff Foxworthy and Bon Jovi in one blog post?! Oh my!

I also think it's funny you said "hell."

This is really good, Justin. I'm going to tweet it a gazillion times so people in our industry pay attention. One blog post at a time, we're going to reach the vision of changing the perception people have of us.

My latest conversation: Old PR Stunts Don't Drive Sales

JGoldsborough 190 pts moderator

ginidietrich Thanks, GD. Your post is on my list to read today. I think you're right...one blog post at a time we can keep chipping away. The strategy vs tactics thing is on my list this week. Too many PR pros with a lot of talent trying to pawn of tactics as strategies. A tactic is NOT a strategy. It supports a strategy. And business leaders understand strategy. Or at least they should.

Conversation from Twitter


joeldon Thanks for the RT!


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