A Post That Every Service Person Will Hate

Guest post by:

Richard Laermer, CEO, RLM Public Relations

When you’ve been doing PR for as long as I have (a couple hundred years) you notice trends in the industry before they’re widely spread. That’s why this newest discovery is so disheartening and not a little mind-blowing: Turns out that a lot of what we practitioners of the art of promotion do for our clients is no longer valid. Or, folks like me execute something that in many cases isn’t intrinsically necessary now.

This has nothing to do with the Internet or the fact that everyone is a publisher and that brands do their own PR by communicating directly with consumers even when those consumers are businesses or trade clients. That’s kind of old news.

No. I’m talking about why we get out of bed in the morning. And why anyone should be waiting – and paying – for us.

Content has always been at the crux of what we do. We’ve mixed story ideas with angles or hooks and brought them to “influential” media who then made our clientele into stars or in some cases superstars. (To be fair almost all press does nothing but buffet egos or make moms proud. Only when it is a huge trend and a ton of stories following it does the coverage move any sales needles.)

But content is a big bag now. Everything is produced for someone. And it is impossible to say where it came from. In realizing this through incessant arguments with untrusting / *untrustworthy clients I just got tired of standing up for what we did. Or that we “actually” did it. The derivation of an article or blog post shouldn’t be important. Oh, but it was. In our office we hung a sign to display our distaste for this questioning: “Who Gives A Hit!?!”

People always talk about the proverbial seat at the table. In corporate US, if you are important then the C guys and gals will invite you in. Ok, so during the dot com era we sure as hell were given a comfy berth since there seemed to be more so-called powerful tech PR people than ever (see me raising my hand?).

We were snug at that table. What’s the point of being there, right, if have nothing to say. We might as well be clearing it. Most PR-ers are dull drones that wouldn’t know how to greet an original thought if it was stapled to their privates. Our field is filled with people who got canned by Starbucks for failing to show for shifts. People want to do a job, yep, but not a great job.

Now that the chips are so low, most PR people have no idea what we are doing that actually makes our clients money. I’ve noticed a sickening fake specialization creeping into what we are doing. Those who say I’m a social media guy, or I’m the Twitter fiend. They seem to be the ones who can train clients on how to work a room, as if a 25 year-old multi-tasker ever stayed in one for more than a few seconds. Or those who say they’re more into blogs. Who are these people?

A specialist in Blogs. And Pods. And Vines. And ‘Grams. And whatever other ruined terms that a pro uses. Shocking there isn’t a social network called Pivot for all the changes going on. But all this cool-for-cats nonsense doesn’t add up to more ka-ching for the people paying for us to engender sales. Which is why no matter what, no matter whom, every client of every PR agency becomes a flake.

Not just any flake. We are talking hard-to-handle, get out of my office, did you really say that? flake-a-zoid. They start out so nice but deftly morph away from the lovely but needy person to someone whose arms are constantly folded.

But I understand why. If you’re honest you do too.

PR pros are infamous for a single embarrassing tactic: reports. This needless crap has driven me crazy year to year because it wastes money, energy, time and morale – not to mention paper…

People want to cover their asses well. Yet I wish there was just more trust between the two parties. Gaaad.

Report prep panic sets in on a Friday. Stomachs turn. “We got to show the client contact what her retainer is being used for.” COME ON! shouts a bored leader via email. Make those calls. Attain interest. Lie if you must. Fake that passion. Show the client you got his back. Cry to journalists. Or, I know. Call in a favor!

It’s brutally wrong. It’s disgusting, really. How can I shave while looking in the mirror?

What do you think would happen if one day the whole PR community woke up and said to the fla–customers: “No, no more damn reports.”

There should be more listening, less talking, from service people. Then we would know how to move those needles. What do the clients want more than anything? To beat the crap out of their competitors. There, I said it.

Instead of nonsense eye-rolled reports we could pull together well-researched knowledge about the perceived competition. We’d get a foothold on those fools’ weaknesses. Then we would craft content about the competitors and voila!

It’s content. So it must be telling the truth.

If we could do this, then we’re taking PR to another level. We could happily sit at the table and stare into the client’s flake-free eyes and say together we made them a no-balls-on-the-wall success.

You know what’s neat? The now/next/new relationship between client and vendor could flip-flop. If we successfully toss competitors into the trash bin then PR turns into what I call RPP or reputation plus popularity. We keep those bastard competitors stolid and at bay. It may just be the creative step we need to stay in demand!

See, I want to see the end of bad, do-it-just-cause-we-do-it PR. I want to see that badly. I want those dull, shrug-an-hour kids to actually work for a living.

But please. Not at my shop. I’m too busy burning those fucking reports.

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