Shit is Still Shit No Matter How You Dress It

Charging BullOkay, that’s a pretty bold title, and it may put some folk off, but sometimes you have no other way of saying something without diluting it.

I was watching a conversation unfold on Twitter the other evening about public relations, and why a lot of the PR industry is in disarray.

While the “bloggers and journalists don’t like us” line was shared a few times, one of the points that came up a lot was that the industry is still seen by many as being one full of shillers.

Heck, the only industry that seems to get less favorable attention is that of social media consultants…

But to be fair, much of PR only has itself to blame (and I say this as someone with a PR background). I’ve come across way too many agency and corporate PR owners who think the sun shines out their arse. If something goes wrong, it’s often a case of blaming the intern or junior account executive. Then there are the senior executives that take the great ideas of the juniors, or interns, and pass it off as their own so they can climb the corporate ladder.

And don’t even get me started on the PR folk that still think spam is a cold meat for sandwiches, and it’s okay to throw regular regurgitated dross into your Inbox and try and pass it off as a pitch or contact. Seriously guys, I’m tempted to gather a month’s worth of junk mail and stuff it through your letterbox – it’s a similar effect.

Of course, not everyone is like this. You have great folks like Dave Fleet, Rachel Kay, Dave Mullen, Heather Whaling, Matt Batt , Arik Hanson and many more doing brilliant stuff for the PR industry. And then you have a generation-in-waiting with Sasha Muradali, Ryan Stephens, Lauren Fernandez, Stuart Foster and others leading the way for Gen Y.

But still the great work that these guys do is being diluted by the craptastic approach of others. So here’s an idea.

The next time you see a crappy PR pitch or email, challenge the sender. Ask why they sent it, and do they really think that passes as good PR. Same goes for a tweet, or blog post – question people. Don’t be aggressive about it; simply ask why they feel that approach works. Have alternative suggestions as well (nothing worse than criticizing and not having some kind of alternative).

Ask if they have any idea why you weren’t taken with the pitch. If they say, “Wrong subject matter” or similar, at least you know they’ve done their job a little bit when it comes to researching the target (you). If they have no idea why you’re disappointed, explain why and see if they can understand why your way might be better.

If it’s a junior or intern that’s sending out the various pieces of communication, find out who’s above them and challenge them – let’s not attach blame to innocent targets.

It might not change the PR industry immediately – heck, it might not change it at all. After all, like the post title mentions, shit is still shit no matter how you dress it up. And some folk just don’t take to new dress codes.

But if we can collectively change just one mindset and then work from there… Well, that’s got to be worth our time, no?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Christopher Chan

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