10 ways you might be hurting the PR industry

How to identify if you’re contributing to the industry’s own PR problem.

Ever heard those “you might be a redneck” jokes? You know, the Jeff Foxworthy ones? If you cut your grass and find a car, you might be a redneck. If you own a homemade fur coat, you might be a redneck. Yep, I laughed at that one too.

Though most of these jokes are hyperbolic, a few of them might hit close to home. Sort of an, “I’ll laugh at that when I’m out in public, but if one of my friends heard that line they might say it’s about me,” situation.

You know, funny—but also a wake-up call of sorts.

Why am I talking so much about Jeff Foxworthy and redneck jokes on a post about the PR industry?

PR has a perception problem. A big one. We’re seen as spin doctors. People think that all we do is publicity and try to get people to buy things they don’t need. But as Danny Brown says, it isn’t the industry with the problem at all—it’s some of the people in it.

I agree and would like to take it one step further. There are people who give PR a bad name—thanks for the line, Bon Jovi—as in any industry. There are also PR pros who don’t realize they’re hurting our industry’s perception. I’ve even found myself a little too close to that designation a time or two.

Here are 10 examples of when that may have happened to you:

1. If you can’t have a conversation about PR and measurement without having it revert to impressions, you might be hurting the PR industry.

2. If you say strategy or big idea when you really mean tactic, or you don’t know the difference between goals, strategies, objectives, and tactics, you might be hurting the PR industry.

3. If you think a stunt is a viable PR plan just because it would be really freaking cool and generate some buzz, but you haven’t even thought about tying it back to any tangible business results, you might be hurting the PR industry.

4. If you aren’t asking your company or clients to see their business and communications goals, you might be hurting the PR industry.

5. If you are developing strategies for social media or digital channels without having conversations about how those channels integrate with the rest of the brand’s customer touch points, you might be hurting the PR industry.

6. If you prioritize generating buzz in the short term over managing long-term brand perception and relationships, you might be hurting the PR industry.

7. If one of your friends asks about your job, another says you do “press releases, social media, and that kind of stuff,” and you let the conversation go at that, you might be hurting the PR industry.

8. If you hear or read a conversation degrading PR or tossing around the spin-doctors stereotype and you don’t speak up, you might be hurting the PR industry.

9. If you throw around buzzwords like influencers, ROI, and viral because you think they make you sound smart, you might be hurting the PR industry.

10. If you just execute what your clients ask you to do without providing any counsel, even if you and your team are amazing at the execution part, you might be hurting the PR industry.

See the connection now? I think most PR pros would say they never do these 10 things-at least, that’s what they’d say in public. They’d even laugh at the thought of those who do. Just a note of caution: It’s fairly easy to find yourself doing some of the things on this list. Many reflect the way PR has done things in the past.

But past is the keyword there. We need to leave these 10 signs—and any others you might add—in the past and move forward positioning PR as an industry that understands strategy and can uncover insights that improve our clients’ businesses.

If you’re taking steps to make that transition, you might be helping the PR industry. And we can use all the help we can get.

Justin Goldsborough works for Fleishman-Hillard Kansas City, where he specializes in digital strategy and education. He blogs at Justin Case You Were Wondering, where a version of this story first appeared.

Topics: PR


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