I have been thinking a lot lately about public relations, which either means 1) my medication isn’t working or 2) I have to talk about it soon to a large group of PR people. All things being equal, I wish it were the medication.
A few weeks ago I spoke to a PR class at California State University, Fullerton. The students were using a five-year-old textbook, and until I arrived, the instructor had never used the classroom’s Internet connection (he didn’t even know they had one). Want to hear something really scary? Those students will graduate with degrees in PR and ask some of you for jobs.
Next month my business partner and I will be speaking at a media relations workshop sponsored by the Orange County, Calif., chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). We are trying to decide what to say, how to explain the changes in PR and journalism and the importance of modern communications tools like blogs and RSS.
Moreover, we want to show that it’s not just us who are saying PR people need to change their ways, but other PR people are saying it as well. It turns out you don’t need to look any further than B.L. Ochman.
In a recent post post B.L. admonished – in a way only a New Yorker can – a publicist for an event company who sent B.L. an unsolicited e-mail with a one-megabyte press release attachment. When B.L. went to the publicist’s web site, the site said “under construction.” B.L., who called the offending PR hack by name, politely and publicly requested that someone fire her.
Some who commented on B.L.’s post said she was wrong to call out the publicist, that the post was “heartless” and might hurt the publicist’s career. That’s their opinion. My only comment for the PR world is that if you pitch a blogger, then prepare to be blogged. Do your homework first. B.L. is smart and well respected but she also doesn’t pull any punches and says exactly what she wants, whenever and to whomever she wants.
It’s simple: If you don’t want to be verbally abused by a churlish bully who loves himself more than Donald Rumsfeld loves lying to Congress, then don’t go on The O’Reilly Factor. If you don’t want B.L. Ochman to write about how lame you are, then don’t send her your unwanted press releases.
Others commented that B.L.’s role is to teach PR people the right way to pitch bloggers; B.L. said that’s not her job. I agree, almost – as professional communicators we do need to educate, however we don’t need to baby-sit or make excuses for other people’s laziness or self-imposed ignorance.
There is a certain amount of communications Darwinism going on today, a self-policing, professional “natural selection” that is necessary for PR to evolve. Bad PR people need to “get it” or do something else. Education doesn’t come to you – you first have to want to be educated and then be humble enough to seek it out.
B.L. wants to know why “clueless” publicists still have jobs. I don’t know the answer either, though it’s probably similar to why clueless Americans watch Fox News Channel or why CNN anchor Daryn Kagan can look at Rush Limbaugh and think, “damn, that is one handsome man and I can’t wait to be his fourth wife.” People do strange things – don’t forget Dennis Miller once hosted Monday Night Football.
I’m looking forward to the PRSA talk. I’m going to share B.L.’s post as well as some others from the PR blogosphere. Most of all, I hope the attendees learn something and are among those who survive and thrive in the modern age of public relations.
If all goes well, B.L. will get fewer ignorant e-mail pitches and I will be able to stop taking my medication for good. Sure, I’ll miss some of the more interesting side effects, but the PR world will be a better place, and I would much rather live with that.