Mar 17

The lost generation

A recent PRWeek editorial posited the view that industry leaders have done a poor job of Capt.7a23ccc1c683d417205acba34c397564
explaining why the AIG's and Citigroup's of the world are entitled to spend their bailout money to hire PR firms. Where, the publication asked, are our leaders?

I would ask the very same question. But I would apply it to 'helping the next generation of PR pros.' Where are our leaders? Where are PR Week (as well as every other trade publication and industry association)?

I may have missed it, but I haven't seen, read or heard a single word aimed at assisting PR/communications majors who are about to graduate from college.

Where are the 'how to' columns? Where are the guest by-liners? Where are the podcasts and blogs containing useful tips for the next generation?

Industry trade pubs and associations are quick to publish articles about cost-cutting best practices and ways in which agencies can provide more value for lower fees. And, I wish I had a dollar for every opinion piece about measurement and 'what's next' in social media. But, where's the long-term thinking? Where's the investment in our industry's future?  Where is the practical knowledge our college kids need before they enter what may very well be the worst job market in 70 years?

To be sure, there are some individual leaders who are helping the college seniors: Tom Martin and Brian McGee at the College of Charleston come to mind. So do Larry Parnell at George Washington University and Maria Russell at Syracuse. But, where are the editors, reporters, association presidents and agency leaders?

We're only one midsized firm, but we're doing our best to try and help. For example:

– We're hosting a podcast next week that will be composed exclusively of college seniors majoring in PR. We're going to ask them what they're doing to prepare for graduation, how they are differentiating themselves and ask them to share best practices.

– We’ve posted a podcast on our website created by our interns. It's an amazing 'how to' in terms of succeeding at one's first job. It also lists things the interns know now that they wish they knew then. And, it includes tips for winning a job interview.

– We're also actively lecturing at colleges such as NYU, Northeastern, Monmouth University, the University of Vermont, Baruch, the College of Charleston, and others.

The average college senior has about six weeks until graduation. Many, though, are like deer caught in the headlights. They often use words like 'terrified,' when I ask them how they're feeling about the future. They have no job prospects, are saddled with significant student loans to pay and, worst of all, have no industry media or associations providing mentorship or advice.

So, here's a quick note to PRWeek, et al: hold off on the navel gazing for at least one week and devote some ink and advice to the next generation. It's later than we think.

Sep 19

Who are those guys?

Tom Martin, current executive-in-residence at the College of Charleston, and former client of PeppercomAngryboss
as corporate communication chief at ITT, penned a fascinating opinion piece about abusive workplaces.

In his article, Tom, references conversations with several young people who complained about abusive bosses. These were heads of public relations agencies who, said the staffers, shouted, screamed and managed by fear.

Like Tom, I’m befuddled by the fact that leaders who are retained by Corporate America to manage image and reputation could be so oblivious to not ‘walking the walk’ themselves.

I once worked for a screamer and shouter and know how toxic such an environment can be. In that case, the CEO was a former NFL offensive lineman (talk about an appropriate job title), the firm was in the management consulting field and the times were decidedly different.

When the Council of Public Relations Firms, PRSA, Arthur Page and other professional organizations ‘screen’ for new members, they should include a background check on managerial style/corporate culture. And, prospective clients should conduct better due diligence in their searches (we’re rarely asked to discuss agency culture or our management style in new business pitches).

The Vince Lombardi School of Abusive Management should have died when the great Packers coach did. To hear that it is not only alive, but well, is depressing. To realize that such deportment is going unchecked in our own industry is a disgrace. We must police this sort of boorishness if public relations is to one day claim its long-coveted seat at the table.