It seems like every time our industry takes one giant stride forward in defining ourselves as strategic partners, someone or some entity, will remind the business world that many still see us as little more than vendors.
It really hurts, though, when the industry’s ‘top’ journal, PR Week, uses the word to describe us.
The incident in question occurred in a column entitled, ‘Gloves Off.’
PR Week asked two industry veterans to answer the following question, ‘Is it necessary for major brands to have a retained PR agency on board?’
Sherry Pudloski, VP, eternal communications at Pfizer, argued for the affirmative while Paula Keve, CCO of Dow Jones & Company, said, “Hell no!”
Both executives raised familiar issues:
– Pudloski emphasized the objectivity and wide breadth of experience that only an external PR firm can provide.
– Keve rightly pointed out that clients are paying for a whole lot more than an AOR’s strategy and tactics. She suggested that many agency fixed costs are included in their monthly fees (which is certainly true of holding companies). And, she was especially appalled to be billed an hour-and-a-half just for an agency staffer to compile her invoice.
This is all very, very old turf. But, what struck a nerve was ‘PR Week’s View’ of the debate:
“The PR agency world is more competitive than ever – to the benefit of clients. Firms often bring valuable expertise and perspective, but it is up to the client to ensure he or she is getting the most out of their company’s vendors.”
VENDORS? Why thank you, PR Week. By using the dreaded V-word, you’ve once again perpetuated the myth that PR is little different than office supplies, telephone lines or office equipment. By using the dreaded V-word, you’ve once again told purchasing agents that PR firms are suppliers, and should be treated as such from a cost standpoint.
It’s challenging enough for an agency to gain a seat at the coveted C-suite table. We most surely do NOT need our leading trade journal referring to us as vendors. I, for one, would like to see the publication print a correction.