It all started out so well.
In order to further cement Mango PR as an innovating, thoughtleading, cage-rattling communications brand, the head of publicity at Mango’s Sydney office Tina Alldis penned an opinion piece for marketing industry website Mumbrella. The piece, published Thursday June 21 was inspired by the mass lay-offs at Fairfax and News Ltd.
The column is painful to read and nearly impossible to fathom. The writing is so corporate, over-written and jargon-laden that is hard to decipher but the upshot is: less journos = exciting opportunity for PR industry. There’s lots of talk about “platforms” and “creative social insights”. Excruciating but hell, we all stuff up sometimes.
The column inspired dozens of negative, angry, hurtful comments appearing all of which you can find here. They are entirely deserved but really, when will websites stop publishing cowardly anonymous comments? But we digress…
Many of the comments were from journos denying their reliance on PR people and indeed slandering them at large.
The column and comments reveal a couple of broad truths. 1. There are a lot of inexperienced, over-confident, minimally-qualified people in surprisingly senior PR positions. Generally speaking, the industry deserves its poor reputation with journalists. I say that as a person who has made a living as a PR person and employing others to do the same. Also; as a radio and print journalist (albeit tabloid) I had hundreds of interactions with publicists, many good, many not good.
2. Journalists are a proud lot. Many are also hypocrites. Journos endlessly bitch about PR people and claim never to utilise story ideas inspired by flacks. What bollocks. They should peruse the content they produce and analyse where the stories originate.
Real estate, food, entertainment, fashion, IT and consumer electronics stories are all majority PR-inspired. So too the celebrity stuff and the fluff about upcoming movies, video games, music releases. (That’s a lot of coverage right there.)
Equally PR-driven are many of the interviews and profile pieces with business magnates, Hollywood types and people of the moment. The lighter health and wellbeing stuff generally falls into the PR-driven category as well.
What does that leave? Oh yeah – many of the (relatively few) serious political exclusives are based on deliberate leaks in which stories are handed to selected journos by flacks. Standard interviews are doled out via media officers to individuals or to groups at doorstops.
Business journos spend a fair slice of their working lives creating stories from suppplied financial statements, projections and sales figures from businesses. How many stories are created from one Reserve Bank media release or strategic Gerry Harvey utterance?
Journalists spend their day reading releases and taking calls from PR folk. Those allowed to leave their desks often do so to attend PR-inspired events such as press conferences and photo opps. Outside match day, sports journalism is utterly PR-beholdent.
What does that leave…beyond cartoons and recipes?
This applies similarly to many serious, social-issues-based stories which Citizens of Hootville promote. Of the 1000 or so stories Hootville scored for our clients over 12 years about exactly none of them would have happened without our work.
That doesn’t mean that journos did our bidding but it does mean that we conceived, packaged, pitched and facilitated the stories. Journalists are rarely seen walking the streets with notepad, trenchcoat and hat snooping for scoops. Hacks need flacks and vice versa, though the hacks are in denial. Maybe not all the time, just…most.
Media produced without control by PR flacks would be utterly undigestible. However without the flacks, the journalistic hacks would have a harder time filling their space than they readily admit. That goes for the serious content as well as the shallow.
The PR industry should not be condemned because of one ill-judged and insensitive column. Nor should journalists be judged by the work of some nightly current affairs shows, morning shock jocks or fluffy weekend magazine.
Note: Just as I criticised PR folk as a PR person, I make my comments on journalists as a former proud journalist and broadcaster who was unceremoniously sacked from both Truth and 3AK when dollars ran out and corporate strategies changed.
As the late Rodney King said; “Can we all get along?”
Comments and sharing most welcome.