Attacked! (again)

June 14, 2007

There seems to have been a fair bit of keyboard bashing lately concerning the annoying habits that some of the more inept among the PR fraternity insist on preserving, and the scatter gun press release looks like it comes out on top.

The Spud isn’t about to defend it, it is poor, lazy practice and it ends up tarring all of us with the same broad brush, but there seems to be a rather disconcerting trend toward “outing” the culprits involved, which has reached a line over which, I hope for all our sakes, it doesn’t cross.

Charles Arthur kicked off the current round of PR bashing last week with the wonderfully titled Die, PR, die, a post full of (perfectly valid) complaints, but – more importantly for such a high profile hack, the names of the villains involved.

If that, combined with the ongoing efforts of the Bad Pitch Blog et al, wasn’t uncomfortable enough, today the Spud stumbled across “Idiot PRs” a page of Systeme D’s site dedicated to reproducing example’s of releases that he’s received which aren’t relevant to his publication, which , just in case anyone’s really interested, is the positively addictive Waterways World.

There’s a whole separate post about Systeme D’s arrogance, self righteousness and self importance (not that he’s alone – he’s by no means the most insufferable) but that can wait. I’m sure he’s really a lovely fellow.
For now the Spud’s only concern with Systeme D’s approach is the inclusion of email addresses. I ask you, is that necessary? Before you tut and roll your eyes – no, the Spud’s not on his list (at least not yet) but the Spud is left wondering if the stakes aren’t likely to be raised in the inevitable next round of assassinations by the inclusion of home phone numbers, addresses maybe even photos?

And there’s the line – I would hate to see it crossed, but I fear it has already.

The Spud’s question is whether attacking, exposing and ridiculing those at the bottom of this food chain is anything like a constructive manner in which to approach an already difficult situation? Is Systeme D satisfied with the idea that there’s an AE in one of the many piss poor agencies getting ripped to bits by a director not only because they fucked up, but because SD and others choose to make that public – not the agency, the individual within the agency who’s probably either out of a job now or making the tea. Has that improved things? Do you get fewer irrelevant emails now?

Those who send badly aimed releases don’t do it for fun – no honest they don’t – they aren’t just trying to annoy you for a laugh. They’re doing it because they can’t afford to miss you. Because the primary force driving their agency and their directors isn’t the vision of a better tomorrow for all concerned, a world of softly lit sun dappled media relations where everyone is bestest mates, Instead it’s the fear of not being able to justify the fee, not delivering what you’ve already vastly over promised and not keeping the client. It stinks from the top down, not from the bottom up.

The PR industry in the UK – and the vast body of “middleweight” tech PR agencies in particular – find themselves working for increasingly demanding clients, competing with each other on excessive activity instead of attainable quality, over servicing to a degree that simply cannot be sustained and most importantly and as a side effect struggling to find good people (see TWL’s excellent post on the subject). All of this produces a poor quality, poorly focused output. It is under-prepared, under-researched, and aimed at everything and anything that moves. None of this is an excuse, just an effort at outlining the circumstances under which some of your favourite “PR idiots” are working. Nor is it a call for sympathy either, as I said the problem lies inside of the PR industry and the Spud does not and will not defend or condone it.

Above and beyond all of that is the fact that those rare, freshly qualified, capable people that we so desperately need to draw into UK PR will be doing a bit of research while wondering if getting into PR is as sinister as they’ve been told, and will soon (and increasingly) find that the average AE’s idea of a good day at the office is not getting a hatful of shit hot clippings, securing an interview with #1 target publication or front paging The Times, but having avoided ending up on someone’s “hit list”. Not a good result by anyone’s standards.

These specifically targeted blasts are not going to help us entice good candidates into the game, people who could help to raise standards all round. It’s going to drive them away.

It’s easy to snipe, dig and laugh – but once we’ve frightened them all off, Richard, you won’t even have an irrelevant press release to complain about.


4 Responses to “Attacked! (again)”

  1. […] on the web Thursday June 14th 2007, 1:33 pm Filed under: The Media, PR, Blogging, Internet The Spud Gun, a new blog on my reading list (thanks for the listing by the way), has attacked the trend in PR […]

  2. Linda Says:

    Hi Spud,
    Very interesting – I can’t believe people are justifying a fee by saying they have sent an irrelevant press release to some huge distribution list. This makes me naive, I know, but I agree with you that it stinks from the top down, not the bottom.

    I have responded to your comments over at Getting Ink. As someone who has gone into PR (and now back again) from journalism, I’ve also been happy to go in to see potential new PR clients and winning their business by explaining that building contacts, and giving journalists what they want, instead of sending out a load of press releases to people who don’t want them, could be the way to go.

    all the best


  3. Spudgun Says:

    Linda, I couldn’t agree more. My position being that building contacts, and giving journalists what they want is what we agencies should be competing on, instead we tend to compete on price and the promise of frantic activity.

  4. Alexander Says:

    It’s odd to look over your way and see so much of this stuff going on. In the Middle East, where I live and work, we tend to think of ourselves as ‘behind the curve’, and yet this renewed debate over the poor quality of thought and execution in UK PR does make me wonder if perhaps we aren’t just a little better off – or at least no worse off. Given that the industry and market here are so young (, budgets so much smaller and our media nowhere near as diverse or open as yours, that perhaps is even more depressing!

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