Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson has decided to list every lazy PR person who spams his mailbox with irrelevant messages. He claims that “Lazy flacks send press releases to the editor in chief of Wired because they can’t be bothered to find out who on my staff, if anyone, might actually be interested in what they’re pitching… “.
He then goes on to list PR folk from Edelman to Weber Shandwick. I whole heartedly support this. It reminds me of the quote I have used before when Charles Clover delivered a great line to a publicist having read his press release: “Your press release has all the complexity of Kafka but none of the narrative flow.” Sadly this highlights the lack of craftsmanship of many who pose as media relations experts.
I know how journalists have become more and more frustrated by the countless streams of press releases and missives sent from publicists who subscribe to the growing data systems that churn out lists, sometimes in a very sophisticated fashion.
Despite data protection, a media contact is stalked by these Orwellian spooks that offer up all you need to know including their shoe size. The unsuspecting journalists then find their inboxes drowned by inconsequential guff. I applaud Chris Anderson in his pursuit to block them. Whatever happened to relationship development?
The old term “flack” used by this correspondent aptly describes the operational skills of some of these rogues. The choking, over heated, gaseous hot air suffocates. There definitely appears to be a growing backlash against these spineless PR’s from journalists who’ve simply had enough. To many PRs prefer to wing an email than pick up the phone and engage in banter. Why? Simply because the story that they choose to peddle has as much use as a one legged dog digging for a bone on a frozen lake.
For every good PR, there are probably ten or so inadequate operatives sullying the craft. There has always been an uneasy rapport between journalists and PRs. Trust has been chewed up and spat into the faces of both professions.
Perhaps outbursts like this will get both sides of the divide to focus on the problem. Most media organisations are under commercial pressure and the need to ruthlessly refresh has meant that there is a greater need for meaningful relationships.
In truth both sides abuse. Cheap labour in the media industry seems to have replaced well trained soldiers equipped for the daily battle. There are far too many back slapping awards in the industry that fail to reward true achievement. These gongs become a smoke screen and a new biz tool that adds momentum to the vicious circle
The web is a powerful tool but one which is being abused by the PR industry. This has resulted in a distancing in media relations between the PR and journalist. In a world where texts and emails abound, there is little time for connection or building back up those relationships. It’s partly the fault of the media and partly the fault of PRs, but I fear this is only the tip of the iceberg.
PR bloggers got in a fluster a few months ago after the artist Tom Coates harangued faceless publicists who were spamming his site plasticbag.org. He created an image titled “This is not a brothel…” in response. He added seven paragraphs of commentary to the picture detailing his dislike for PR people sending him press releases and seeing his blog only as a marketing vehicle to be spammed by marketers who didn’t understand the organic nature of what he does.
If PRs don’t address poor practice, how can we be part of the revolution and create meaningful and exciting new ways to communicate in this ever changing digital age we trade in? I hope the Anderson poke has saved us from naïve and hapless behaviour. Perhaps more journalists should hold up these inept PRs who cut and run and have little sensibility or depth in terms of crafting the communications practice for the future good of us all.