“Yeah…no, I don’t do that.”

Spin.

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(CC) photo credit: mobilestreetlife // flickr

Flack.

Bribe.

Pester.

Hover.

All words people seem to tack on to this career choice we have made called Public Relations. And I’m sick of it!

I had the recent pleasure of meeting one of Connecticut’s finest journalists. I’ll leave her name out here because it serves no purpose. But trust me she is a legend in this State.

Her statement comes off a bit rough out of context, but we were discussing local PR firms and how she can’t stand some of the sloppy things they do (e.g. misspellings, poor grammar, etc. in the work they distribute to the media).

“I can’t believe they get paid as much as they do!” . . .Wish you could have seen my face after this statement. Shall we recall?

From this short comment, I was inspired to write a bit about what we PR professionals do not actually do (even though the world is convinced we do). Please note: I cannot speak for everyone in this industry. I am merely commenting on what I have observed and how I practice my job as an Account Coordinator.

1. Spin: This word combined with the words ‘public’ and ‘relations’ makes me physically shudder. I’ve had clients ask: “can we spin this a different way?” We do not, should not, cannot spin in this profession. Can we word things, as I like to say “prettily?” Yes. Odds are we got into this business because we might possibly be a bit right-brained and love writing. So, yes, we word things in a “pretty” way (for lack of a better term), but shame on you if you spin. Shame! Our job is to tell the truth and tell it efficiently. If you messed up, or a crisis hit your client, admit and remedy the situation. It will only ever come back to bite you if you don’t. NO SPIN. Ugh, Bill O’Reilly.

2. Hover: Same journalist from above offered some great advice: “don’t let the entourage crowd your talent.” I don’t know if this is just a personal preference of mine, but when my clients are being interviewed by a journalist, IF I’m in the room with them, I’m plenty of feet away. Most of the time, I tune in for a bit, but then let the interviewer and interviewee do their thing. What you can do here as a PR pro to lighten the “oh my gawd, my client swears and says the most nonsensical things” feelings, is to (duh) prep your client with talking points/a briefing document. Direct them on how best to answer common and difficult questions and to, for goodness-sake, spit out that gum! Seriously though, don’t be a Black Hawk.

3. Make six figures: Aright, alright . . . there are those public relations professionals in the corporate field, agency world, academia, publicity, self-made, investor relations, etc. positions who make plenty of dough. Good for them. But average starting salary at a PR agency for a new college grad is$28-$32k (really outdated link, but you get my point). And we don’t magically end up making a million dollars the following year. Yes, many journalists have come over to “the dark side” as one of my college professors used to refer to it. Some for more money. But let’s be honest, this isn’t the highest paying job. I would love to know where people get that impression . . . oh Lizzy Grubman or Command Public Relations anyone?

So what are some other myths or misunderstandings about the public relations profession you would like to disprove here and now?? I wanted to keep my list relatively short so I can hear from you! I’d love your thoughts.

For a little fun . . . and just because he enjoys being the contrarian . . . please read my PRBC colleague’s related post on why we “fulfill” all of these labels I just tried to disprove

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  • keithtrivitt

    Kate, thanks for taking a very fun and truthfal approach to this subject. Where do I start on some of the many myths about the PR profession that the general person – not to mention clients – have about our work? Let's see, there is the idea that we can magically make everything all better just by “explaining” a sticky sitaution to a journalist. Or that we can instantly get the front page of the WSJ or The Times for no-name company that has little to no compelling story worth telling.

    I really think that's the biggest myth I would love to dispel. At the end of the day, we are creatures who thrive on listening to, reading, viewing, etc. a great story. If you are Mr. or Ms. CEO of a company, it doesn't matter how important you are, you have to have a great story to tell about your business, your products, your services or your people. Otherwise, no amount of spinning, cajoling or arm-wrangling in the world will get you that big-time story or placement you are seeking.

    Even with the wonderful world of social media, it's still not going to work. I think in that realm, maybe even more so than within the mainstream media, you absolutely have to have a compelling story to tell, as the margin for fluff and non-truths is so much smaller than with the legacy media.

    Ultimately, I think a lot of this comes down to people understanding that more than getting companies or people placements, more than spinning a story around to make it “pretty” as you say it, we are counselors. We offer guidance, knowledge and expertise on how to best position a company and its stories with the key audiences and influencers that we believe they should target to enhance their business efforts and goals.

    Keith Trivitt
    @KeithTrivitt

  • I'm gonna side with your post in this showdown, Kate. Maybe it's because I'm not an old school flack, but I just think that hovering and pestering are not good ways to make the client and the journo happy in the long run.

  • Ok, perhaps I pester a tiny bit . . . 🙂

  • prcog

    Aha!

  • prcog

    Aha!

  • Great post. I'd like to contact you directly, but don't see any contact info on your site. Please advise.

  • Hi there,

    Thanks so much! I'm @kottavio. Feel free to @ reply and I can follow, then DM you my e-mail if you'd like.

    Kate

  • jesslyon

    SO true! You go girl. ~ your hack turned flak colleague 🙂

  • Great post. I'd like to contact you directly, but don't see any contact info on your site. Please advise.

  • Hi there,

    Thanks so much! I'm @kottavio. Feel free to @ reply and I can follow, then DM you my e-mail if you'd like.

    Kate

  • jesslyon

    SO true! You go girl. ~ your hack turned flak colleague 🙂

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