Given The Sweet Smell of Success and the NRA’s post-Newtown press conference, the conventional wisdom is that public relations practitioners are oily, tone-deaf hucksters. After spending a few days catching up on reading PR trade publications, it seems we are idiots, too. The bad writing and sophomoric advice (often about how to avoid bad writing and giving sophomoric advice) that passes for professional development is shameful.
In an article about how to achieve social media success in 2013, the “secrets” included “tell your story, but tell the true story well;” “recycle your content;” and “pay attention to Google’s algorithm.” In another I learned if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you should have the key traits of persuasion, leadership and personal accountability. Wow.
I was recently part of a discussion thread on LinkedIn, “If you were advising the NRA on a communications strategy right now, what would you say?” (This was started well before the disastrous “armed guards in schools” press conference.) It was a lively and robust conversation, with some terrific thoughts, but I was shocked and dismayed by the number of posters–all crisis communications professionals–who completely and utterly missed the point.
Speaking of LinkedIn, I applied to join a group, “Network of PR Professionals.” I got this message back from the group manager: Normally, we do not accept members whose profile fotos are in violation of LI’s User Agreement, which requires any profile foto to be a head shot. Your foto is cropped so severely that LI members cannot easily distinguish your tiny face. The message went on to share Wikipedia’s definition of a “head shot” and to outline LinkedIn’s User Agreement requirements. The group manager closed by saying: Your credentials are impeccable. Once you bring your LI profile foto into compliance, please submit a new Membership Request and I will approve it immediately. I apologized for my tiny face, and asked him to do the same for “foto.” I should also have done the same for using Wikipedia as a source.
No wonder our profession has a bad name. Too many of us just do not get it, yet are still practicing and presumably getting paid. To be fair, there was one piece of advice that I will share from the “secrets” article: Get out of the PR bubble. YES! Cross the lines; read dispatches from other disciplines. I highly recommend a terrific blog called Occam’s Razor written by Google’s “digital marketing evangelist” Avinash Kaushik. His passion is data and how to best present it, which for PR is the Holy Grail–measuring ROI! From reading his posts, I have been able to devise a metric for my clients’ Facebook pages that makes sense to them and guides us in how to constantly improve the quality of our posts and the level of our engagement.