A few days ago I took a few days to work somewhere remotely, somewhere much quieter, to work in peace and relax. The day I arrived, someone wrote a post about me being bad for PR and a jerk and some other things.
This post, along with its total lack of content, was weird both in the total lack of existence of the writer anywhere except on this website and the bile. Yes, I am fairly critical of PR, I’ve criticized the lying and the word-fluffing and the self-importance. But I’ve never seen someone within my own industry (random trolls? sure!) lay into me and call me a jerk, bad for PR, and miserable .
It’s not that I’m sad or offended, I’m just surprised. I’ve been going at PR for 7 years in three days, and I’ve written all sorts of articles and staunchly fought back this tide of shit. My business has been very successful. I’m very proud of that. What I’m not proud of is what the industry’s reaction has been - from the updog thing to saying don’t call reporters. The PR industry appears to be nigh-on devoid of shame or humour. People will staunchly defend something that lacks human decency - cold-calling people who don’t want to be called, or spamming them with pitches. I don’t mean they’ll say “I didn’t know,” they’ll just do it. Then there’re the ones who say “oh this is bad, stop doing this everyone” and I’ll know, thanks to literally asking reporters to check, that they actually do it.
I admit I’ve got a little more racy , upping the ante not just to see if it makes people change but to shine a big light on a very problematic industry. One that has plenty of con-artists, hucksters of meaningless products (hey, content marketing) and straight-up liars.
So I’ve sort of changed my focus, I suppose. I’m happy to educate, and I’ll continue to do my best to do so, but if anything has changed in my approach it’s I just don’t think that PR people want to listen. Systematically, PR is broken. It does not want to change. Look at the comments on my very clear steps and outrage at the disarray of PR education . One from my old boss, who had clearly forgotten I worked for him, others writing long diatribes about how it’s not PR’s fault the PR education system sucks.
The only way forward is to spotlighting the insanity of this damned industry. I had a guy the other day tweet at me that his boss told him he had to cold-call reporters. I said his boss should be ashamed. He didn’t react beyond saying “well, shucks.” That’s so sad, because he’s just following orders - as I was when I first started in PR - and his manager is profiteering off of shitty, disrespectful stuff that a poor sap is doing.
I used to have this theory that if lower-level people did what I did - simply sit at the bottom and learn reporters, then pitch them one by one and not form pitch - things would get better. So far, three years into my own thing, I’m not so sure. I don’t know if it’s the forceful managers - mine sure did at my first job make sure I “pitched the whole list” of reporters - or simply young people who don’t really care. It could be both.
Sympathetically, this industry is glitzy and glamorous to the outside world and pure drudgery on the inside. It’s not “clean out the trash” or “milk the pigs” bad but it’s not what you expect day one.
Some insane part of me wants to just list every agency that I know form pitches. I won’t do it because in the end, the people doing it that get exposed are the dregs at the bottom. The managers at the top, the people talking nice to the clients, showing success to the clients that other people have got, they’re the ones succeeding off the back of others. Always happy to tell you if someone does it, though. Ed@ezpr.com. Or Tweet at me or whatever.
That and change isn’t off the backs of hurting people. It’s off of draining the bad people of the good business, which isn’t done by turning this or other blogs into lists of good agencies, necessarily. It’s about saying publicly what is bad, how it should change, what the people doing it wrong look like , so that they can be identified, and let the outside world and potential clients know what to look out for so money isn’t spent badly.
The article said that I am (and by extension what I write) is self-promotional. Other than raw SEO as “that guy who reporters seem to like who has the competency to write words online,” I have yet to actually put really promotional things - and I won’t - like “I got my clients X page and Y page,” which is literally self-promotional and you can find about 40 agencies that do it - all over my Twitter page. I won’t post my ARR, I won’t post my revenues. I will say how good Royal, Chris and Kevin are.
And I will keep writing about the things that people don’t know that PR agencies and PR people do every day that are unethical.
PS: Please read my blog.