Robert Beerworth Team : Web Strategy Tags : Business

Poor Public Relations

Robert Beerworth Team : Web Strategy Tags : Business

Wiliam's clients have mixed views on public relations, ranging from poor to very poor.

I believe that part of this perception – and let there be no doubt as to my dissatisfaction with the PR services Wiliam itself has engaged in the past few years – is a lack of public relations quantification and measurement (i.e. how does one actually measure PR and its success), and the subsequent benefits PR may or may not provide to business.

Counting column inches is not a measurement of public relations.

Of course, a major contributor to the dissatisfaction many have with PR, is unrealistic and lofty promises by PR firms (and in particular, PR firm principals) followed up by incompetent and unimpressive service.

Either way, the PR industry has nobody but itself to blame for failing to educate more broadly on its value and benefits, for failing to develop standards for measuring performance, past counting column inches, and for continuing to set unrealistic expectations in the minds of businesses.

Please don’t get me wrong: public relations most certainly has a role to play in the marketing and communications mix, but the time has come for PR firms to tell us why and how, rather than merely labouring the follies of discounting PR.

Neil Shoebridge has an explosive article in this morning’s subscription-only Australian Financial Review (Ineptitude costs more than money) that frankly trashes the industry save for a few good apples. (For those who are unsure, Neil Shoebridge is a widely regarded and respect Australian media and marketing columnist.)

I’m not sure what provoked the article, but it is on the target and well overdue. 

Key points raised (and I quote):

  • If marketers knew how badly most PR companies handle the media, they would be horrified. If marketers knew how that incompetence is doing them more harm than good with the media, they would fire them.

  • If they knew how hard some firms work to pump up billable hours they charge back to their clients – by constantly calling media outlets with stories they know will never be used and by sending one pointless media release after another – they would fire them and sue to get their money back.

  • If marketers knew that most PR firms are staffed with people who do not know or care what represents a newsworthy story and rarely have any idea about the audiences of the different media they are pitching stories to, they would quickly realise that they should be handling their media relations themselves.

The big question posed by Shoebridge however is why companies continue to engage PR firms and their services.

And the answer?

The PR industry has convinced business that dealing with the media is hard work, which it is not. It requires honesty and responsiveness, qualities that are in short supply at most PR firms.”

There are some very good PR executives, in both companies and consultancies, who know how to work with and manipulate the media. But the number of PR executives that fall into that category can be counted on, at best, two hands.

Hear hear.