I was one of the people interviewed in a video (below) shown at a Council of PR Firms Critical Issues Forum at the Yale Club last week. The topic of the meeting was the future of public relations.” And some pretty dangerous ideas came out of the mouths of people who really should know better – like the CEOs and Sr VPs of some of the biggest PR firms in the world.
The CEO of a huge PR firm, for example, said “There is always someone out there with a new idea. Our job is to steal their ideas and put them into our DNA.” When I asked “Did you really mean to say that?” he said “Yes”.
A Bronx cheer
I don’t see it that way. I think it’s the job of professional communicators to create rather than steal new ideas. The best and the brightest always have, and always will have that concept in their DNA.
There are plenty of smart people working in PR. But there are more of us who just became disgusted with the way it’s done these days and turned our talents to new media. That’s why I left the PR field in 1996, and I’ve met lots of other recovering flacks along the path.
And here’s a robust Bronx cheer for another member of the Critical Issues panel said “Reporters have some sense of objectivity standards … Newspapers still have a basic tenet that you try to present both sides of the story and check facts.” In new media, he said “instead of legitimate information, we have individuals expressing opinion.” Why would the tired subject of whether bloggers are journalists still be discussed by “professional communicators” when we’ve been part of the landscape for more than 10 years?
Dinosaurs rule PR
With leaders of major public relations firms espousing views like those, it is no surprise how low the level of the industry has fallen, in practice and in public and media esteem.
PR people are still woefully behind the sea change that has taken place since the dawn of new media. Some firms talk a good game, but the basic belief system is still that mainstream media is “real media,” and that blogs, forums, social networks, content sharing sites, virtual communities and other new media are bogus substitutes for “real” communications.
“It bores me too”
The industry has failed to educate either its employees or its clients about current reality. That’s why interns are charged with “blogger outreach” and other media calls. It’s why press releases are so boring that one flack recently told a blogger “I found [that release] kind of boring too — and I wrote it.:)”
And a senior manager of another PR firm told me, in email when I complained about a terrible pitch from his firm:
“I think you’re a lot like me: highly professional and frustrated by the dolts we run into every day. You know how it is; when you go into business you have lofty aspirations, but due to many factors they often are not met.
One of the things we train our people to do is explain it to the people we call “as if they were a six year old”. Sometimes it works, and frankly sometimes it backfires. We’re trying to refine this approach …”
Thanks for lunch Given the state of the global economy; the fact that bloggers are now part of the news landscape and we’re here to stay; that nobody wants to listen to corporate BS anymore and that we haven’t been listening for at least 10 years, it’s time for the PR industry to take a good hard look at itself. Too bad industry leaders didn’t do that at their own Critical Issues Forum. But hey, lunch was delicious.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein