When the PR Industry Turns on Itself

I was horrified last week when I watched a video produced by a PR agency which was featured in the prestigious “PR Dummies” column on Gawker. (Yes, our industry is interesting enough to have its own column of shame.)

The video features dancing, lipsyncing and even underwater photography. It has high production values – professional makeup, strong editing, choreography. They certainly spent a great deal of time, effort and money on it.

Here’s why I had such a strong reaction to it:

Everything in PR should have a strategy behind it. What, exactly, was the strategy behind this video?  Yes, they did get the aforementioned publicity.  But does this show them to be the type of savvy, professional marketers clients would want to hire?  Hardly.  Fine to do a video – but what is the desired outcome?  Surely not to end up in “PR Dummies.”

It’s all about the clients.  Clients are the reason we have agencies. They pay us to work for them. If I were a client, I’d have a lot of questions about an agency that expended so many resources – including the time of the entire staff – in producing such a ridiculous throw-away video when they should be working for me. Will you be recommending such frivolous expenditures to me? How about spending your time in getting me coverage instead?

There are enough negative stereotypes of PR people – no need to add fuel to the fire.  Countless movies and tv shows (for example, “Sex & The City”) have perpetuated stereotypes of PR practitioners. Why, as a practicing professional, would you choose to reinforce these caricatures by creating such a video?

If I sound slightly bitter, that’s because I spent half of my twenties explaining to people that I didn’t spend my time “going to parties” (and the other half explaining to my parents that I didn’t write the articles about my clients that appeared in the newspaper.)

There are other examples of pitches in “PR Dummies” that are just as egregious – poorly written, ill-timed, or just in bad taste.  As embarrassing as these are for our industry, they can also be assigned to one of several categories: “We didn’t know what we didn’t know” (sad); “Lack of common sense” (something that just can’t be taught); or “Shameless” (they just don’t care).

What I hate about this is that it was deliberate. It’s hard to believe that at no point during the days – or weeks – it took to produce this that no one had the sense to put the brakes on it.

I’ve worked with dozens of professionals over the years who take their work and their commitment to their clients seriously, who develop sound strategies and creative campaigns, who value their client relationships, use spell check and good taste, and support their families with their PR careers. It really saddens me to see this.

Other PR practitioners – what are other ways in which our industry sabotages itself?

The Castle Group, Managing Director, Hilary Allard
Written By: Hilary Allard


Outdoors of the Castle Group office