Apparently, a “significant majority” of PR people are not up to the job.
That’s according to a recent survey of journalists undertaken by Press Gazette and PR Week, in which unsurprisingly nearly half the journalists questioned agreed with the above statement.
The latest in the hacks v flacks saga shows us that whilst these anonymous journalists’ comments ought to teach PRs a lot, none of them is anything new. So why is the PR industry still not taking them on board?
Looking at the complaints from journalists, they featured irrelevant sell-ins, mass distribution services and spammy follow-ups – and most of us in PR would agree that we should know better. So why do so many still persist in doing these things?
Many PR people arrive into their first graduate role, are promptly handed a media list and a press release, and are told to either contact a huge list of journalists or send the release out through a distribution service. No one starts out as an expert, and if that’s what you’re told to do, you do it! Maybe you’re so keen to get on with your first task that you don’t think to do a bit of research first. But who’s still telling graduates that this is OK?
Any experienced PR person knows that all those annoying tactics lead to bellyaching from the very professionals we’re trying to build relationships with.
Perhaps the problem is that the experienced PR people aren’t at the front line any more? These top-level PRs, especially in the biggest agencies, are so high up in the company that they’re focused on things like new business or managing strategy rather than actually talking to journalists. These people know exactly how journalists want to be approached, but their role no longer has them selling in stories.
The gap then, must be in the middle. If that top-level expertise isn’t being shared down to entry level, then whilst new PRs learn their trade, they will inevitably annoy a few journalists in the process. The last thing an agency wants to do is burn bridges with a key publication, and this could be avoided if the leaders in the agency shared some of those skills. It might be that those at the top level don’t realise that new staff are still using the wrong methods.
In all industries the talent will range from exceptional to poor. The difference lies in leaders that spend the time explaining to new recruits the best way of doing things, and sharing their expertise. Until this happens in more agencies, we can’t be surprised if journalists continue to moan about PR.