There are oh so many positives to the digital marketing revolution. But, there’s also a darker side that will occasionally rise up and bite the unresponsive companies, the non-believing medical supply executives and, most troubling of all, the unsuspecting publicists.
We’ll bypass the corporations who continue to ignore the irate complaints of bloggers about their company, product or service. And, we’ll raise the white flag of surrender in terms of ever convincing the naysaying surgical gloves sales guy that blogging/podcasting are more than passing fads. But, the PR industry needs to wake up and do a quick intervention before more individual careers and client/agency relationships are destroyed by young and inexperienced publicists who can’t write, don’t understand "digital" media relations and are being "outed" more and more often by the media.
Gawker, for example, has already pilloried a poor Fleishman-Hillard publicist for a brutally-worded KFC pitch. And, now BusinessWeek, the Holy Grail of BtoB publicity, has entered the fray by beating the bejesus out of a well-intentioned, but poorly trained, Newman Communications publicist (article pictured). In the UK, a PR agency hired by Rupert Lowe, the embattled chairman of Southampton Football Club, was caught posting comments of support on a fanzine’s web forum for Lowe ahead of an important board meeting. The forum’s host got suspicious, investigated the IP addresses called the local paper and the move backfired. Lowe has subsequently resigned.
Public relations has always had its share of grammatically-challenged publicists (and executives). But, the current crop seems to have reached new lows (Lowes?). Some recent college grads not only can’t write, they have no idea how to properly research or pitch a reporter. And, as a result, their ill-conceived, poorly crafted pitches are ridiculed by the media.
In the wake of such a public flogging, the client suffers, the agency suffers and, sadly, the publicist, Dave Overton, suffers.
I’m not sure if this is a Council of PR Firms issue, a PRSA challenge or something that each individual agency and corporate communications department needs to address. But, this is an industry problem. A small, but growing, problem that, left unchecked, will do a major job on our image.
The media are right to ridicule our horrific pitches. Now, it’s up to us to do something about it.