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Does P-R Get Any R-E-S-P-E-C-T?
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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So, I'm keeping up on the stock market the other day...who am I kidding? I can't even type that with a straight face. 

I saw an interesting Google alert that piqued my interest the other day. The SERP was "Why public relations gets no respect." Naturally, I clicked on it so hard, my mouse was begging for mercy. I knew I was going to hate this article, but then I read it.

Spot. On. 

Gregory Galant
brought up some salient points that I believe many of us should understand and learn to decipher in the marketplace: 

Public relations is not taken seriously as a function of business or as a profession. US companies spend $150 billion annually on advertising and only $5 billion on public relations, according to eMarketer and PRSA respectively. Advertising professionals make up to 75% more than their PR counterparts, as calculated from PayScale data. 

1. This sucks out loud. Listen, I understand advertising execs are considered the mavens of all things creative, but this chasm in the pay scale of America is terrible. Which is more effective, Mr. or Ms. CEO? Driving 80 mph down the highway hoping to get a two-second peek on the digital billboard or a two-minute piece on the news people may actually watch and understand? Well, that's what we do. I'm not hating on advertising. (Some of my best friends are ad executives.) However, the market is hypersaturated with advertising. Full disclosure, it's likewise full of news. That said, when was the last time you DVR'd an advertisement outside of the Super Bowl? 

In popular culture ad execs are immortalized with powerful characters like Mad Men's Don Draper who positions Kodak's slide projector for success in part by singlehandedly christening it the "Carousel", while PR execs are portrayed by characters like Sex and the City's Samantha Jones who seem to do nothing but throw parties for a living.

2. PR v. Publicists. Fuller disclosure, I — as well as almost 90 percent of the media — loathe publicists. Why? The aforementioned example. They make PR professionals look bad. I have a theory, so kids, hold your ears. The difference between a PR pro and publicist is like a pimp and his ho. One works for it, strategizes the right area for it, and knows how to bring in ROI for it. The other...well, just shows up. Enough said? Oh, event planners? Publicists aren't doing you any favors either. 

With the invention of email it became terribly easy to spam journalists with irrelevant messages. This was enabled by software designed to make it easy to mass email journalists and lazy PRs who took advantage of it, which deeply hurt the profession's reputation.

3. Bad PR. There's a term in any profession called "Best Practices." Regretfully, this is not something they teach in journalism, marketing, or PR courses anymore, it seems. Aside from SPAM, which is heinous in itself, there are also the BCC emails, sense of entitlement, terrible pitches, the "you-need-me" syndrome, and, of course, the incorrigible amount of tools in this profession that make all PR pros a topic around the water cooler in newsrooms. I have good friends in advertising who know about the bad reputations flacks have. I have good friends in the media who remind me about said reputation. Flacks, we can do better. We must do...ah, never mind. 

There are several more points for this argument, but the premise is clear — we don't get respect because many flacks haven't earned it. Moreover, it seems we haven't sold it. There is so much more to PR than the corner suite realizes. What about:
  • Paid versus earned coverage — A billboard costs $$$ while a monthly retainer that could bring in multiple stories costs $
  • Reputation of Advertising — This is not an indictment on the people, just the profession. DISH has created the hopper. DVR has butchered advertising's effect on TV. And, like you really enjoy all those car lots, retails, and feminine hygiene commercials anyway. 
  • Priority — The C-suite loves to feel important. Does an ad lead the news? No. However, your client in PR could...at least be in the first segment. Be honest, car wrecks and drive-bys lead the news.) 
You make up your mind, flacks. This article inspired me to do better. I hope it works for you too. And if it doesn't, I'll buy you an Aretha Franklin CD to remind you. (You betta' think!)


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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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