I’m in the midst of reading Barbara Ehrenreich’s new book, "Bait and Switch: the (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream." As she did in her incredible "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America" tome of 2001, when she went "undercover" to see what it was like to be a member of America’s working poor, Ehrenreich goes incognito in search of a new story.
This one really hits close to home, as the former New York Times columnist reinvents herself as a 50-year-old unemployed public relations freelancer and event planner. She takes the reader along as she goes job hunting for a full-time corporate PR gig.
Unlike "Nickle and Dimed," however, the story is slow and unappealing. The author spends far too much time ridiculing the various self-help job search gurus and PR executives she encounters on her sojourn. What really got my attention, though, were Ehrenreich’s constant jabs at, and put downs of, the public relations field, which she refers to as "journalism’s evil twin."
Ehrenreich reminds me of so many other "holier-than-thou" journalists who look down their collective noses at PR and refuse to admit how much they depend upon us for ideas and access. This has obviously been an age-old problem for PR people and isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
Still, I’d love to hear or read something from a journalist that speaks objectively about PR, and recognizes what we bring to today’s 24×7 world.
Well, I can always dream. Oh, and by the way, Ms. Ehrenreich? We’d never hire anyone with such preconceived notions and such an obvious chip on her shoulder. Better hang onto that day job.
I agree with your assessment. Although a few journalists really understand a PR professional’s value, it’s literally just a few. I can count them on one hand. It’s amazing that reporters and producers, in general, don’t understand how we can make their jobs easier and provide them with exclusives (the “scoop” that all reporters fight for). We don’t just pitch a story. A seasoned PR professional acts as a producer for the media by providing the story idea, the interviews, the supporting research and — often for TV — important broll. Journalists are deluged with stories today via postal mail, email, voicemail, Fed-Ex, messengered deliveries, and so forth. Relying on good PR professionals can help reporters/producers find the story they want quickly and efficiently. Yet, if you surveyed journalists to find out how many understand how to effectively work with PR professionals, you’d probably be able to count them on one hand…with a couple of fingers leftover.