Clueless hacks

Posted on October 31, 2006 7:38 am by | PR

This ought to get your attention, from an article by Trevor Butterworth in STATS, George Mason University’s website “checking out the facts and figures behind the news:”…a truism among journalists that most PR hacks are clueless; clueless about how the media actually works, clueless about what their clients actually do, and just generally clueless about everything.

The article suggests that the other side of the coin is characterized by devious PR reps who sound like they know what they’re talking about but are actually out to outsmart journalists.
Another story appearing in the media recently—this time the Orlando Sentinel—explores local government mismanagement of a PR agency’s work, but raises the question:

Why does the Expressway Authority need a public-relations firm in the first place? The problem at the authority is not bad public relations; it is bad management. When your house is eaten up with termites, you don’t hire a painter; you fix the house.

My asking this question is getting redundant, but when is somebody—PRSA, IABC, IPRA, anybody—going to step up and start doing some PR for the profession? To those of us working in communications, it’s clear that we don’t put makeup on pigs. We create dialogue and consensus. We build understanding. We foster an environment that supports constructive negotiation. We create opportunities for two-way and multi-directional engagement. But the tales of public relations activities that achieve these kinds of goals on behalf of clients are not visible to offer any balance.

I’ve been down this path before, but seeing multiple artricles like this on the same day is just discouraging.

10/30/06 | 4 Comments | Clueless hacks



  • 1.Perhaps it's time to consider taking direct action. It seems pointless to continue to ask the rhetorical question, "...when is somebody?PRSA, IABC, IPRA, anybody?going to step up and start doing some PR for the profession?" when it so obviously is falling on deaf ears.

    Similar to the time oh so many years ago when I created an online accreditation study course for IABC members just because I could, a core group of dedicated professionals, with the tools now available, could do a pretty good job of making visible all of the good work so many practitioners accomplish for their clients. Don't you think?

    Craig Jolley | October 2006

  • 2.Well, you do a podcast with Julie Freeman (IABC President) and Glenda Holmes (IABC Chairman) each month... ask them!

    Allan Jenkins | October 2006 | Copenhagen, Denmark

  • 3.Shel, maybe the time for pleading is over. You are somebody, a somebody who is a member of the IABC. Why don't you do something? I'm sure you have some ideas of what could be done. What will bring change is not those demanding it from others, but those actively seeking it.

    As for PR pros getting a bad rap, I think it's because the way we describe our business makes no sense. "We foster an environment that supports constructive negotiation. We create opportunities for two-way and multi-directional engagement." What does that really mean? How is that tangible? And unfortunately, we do put make up on pigs. Everyday.

    Mike Sacks | October 2006

  • 4.Allan, I can ask, but not as part of the podcast. I'm just a volunteer producer, not the content guy.

    Mike, I'm flattered that you think I have that much clout! Even if I did, what I don't have is time -- at least not buy myself. What about a coalition of us? Why can't PR bloggers do something about this as we have the Anti-Astroturfing Campaign or the Global PR Blog Week? Some coordinated activity in which assignments are made on a reasonable basis?

    Shel Holtz | October 2006 | Chicago, IL

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