By John Eidson
Since the dawn of public relations, practitioners have been using their craft to manipulate the public. All the while driven by elitist agendas or capitalistic greed and at the detriment of society — as evident in Edward Bernays’ Torches of Freedom campaign — where the Godfather of PR was famously hired to expand the number of women smokers.
And where renowned publicists like Bernays created sophisticated campaigns that, if nothing else, were comprised with a large degree of intellect and ingenuity, present day public relations has been reduced to half-baked gimmicks and a lot of spin.
In an age where we have unlimited access to information, today’s PR world serves no purpose other than to clog the collective inbox of the media, making it even more challenging for them to ensure that we receive the real news and not the alternative facts.
This is the false, I repeat FALSE narrative that has been mooring down the industry I love for too long! A narrative comprised of misconceptions that make it increasingly difficult for the bright stars in public relations to be recognized for the important and incredibly challenging work they do.
But before I even attempt to reset the narrative, particularly how it pertains to startup PR, let me make a few things clear.
I don’t blame journalists who don’t list their contact information in PR databases, those who’ve adopted standoffish attitudes towards us, or even the ones who take shots at the industry as a whole and have even called for the disintermediation of the PR person altogether.
I get it.
A lot of Lazy
As The Next Web’s Matthew Hughes recently wrote, “The lazy pitches overwhelmingly come from professional PR firms. Once they’ve received their fee – which can be as much as $10,000 per month – they’ll write some terrible, un-spellchecked disaster of a pitch and then bombard their mailing list with it. These people are hacks, and should be called out at every possible opportunity.”
Today, LinkedIn lists around 12,000 public relation companies in their database in the US alone. Many of these shops are large firms who have devolved into profit centers, signing client after unsuspecting client and haphazardly staffing each account with a mix of novices, email blasters, and amateurs. The experience of executives at these firms is often only leveraged during the courting or new business pitching phase, in a crisis scenario, or when the firm’s value is called into question. The old bait-and-switch.
With little time for on the job training or even PR 101, many at these agencies have adopted an every squirrel finds a nut mentality whereby they spend their days building massive email lists and blasting company “news” to hundreds of journalists in hopes that something sticks. And stick it will — every so often.
And for the startups that seek to go it alone and try to handle PR in-house, efforts are often helmed by someone with no background in the field. The end result are pitches that… well … suck.
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