Drop the Salesman Mentality

I love PR. I really do. Yet, as much as I enjoy working in PR, there are definitely some parts of the business that concern me, and frankly have me worried about the state of the business in the future. One of those areas is how some in PR seemingly view their jobs with a saleperson’s mentality.

That whole, “Hey journalist, buy into this idea NOW! You gotta jump on this now, because I’m going to go after the next living soul I can find who will listen to my spin!” Or my personal favorite: “You owe me big for this hit.”

flickr.com-petesimon CC BY 2.0

Do these sound like phrases that you would say outside of the workplace, to a friend, or acquaintance, or even someone you see passing by? Probably not. So why the hell do we break out thee trite phrases, not only with reporters and bloggers, but potentially worse, with our own colleagues, the ones whose backs we should have.

Can we please stop the salesman mentality in this business, and actually look at it like real humans treat other jobs: with some compassion and empathy for our colleagues and those we deal with on a daily basis? A colleague helps you land a big interview for a client, and ever since then has been *gently* reminding you that you owe her big for that. You were extremely appreciative for the assistance, as you told her before, during and after she helped you secure the connection. But should that person hold it over your head for the next two weeks that you owe them, as though we are all working off of some commission system like an electronics salesperson, and you just took the next big tip from her? I don’t think so. We’re in this business to connect our clients and organizations with key influencers and audiences; since when did we get into PR to sale a 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme for that glorious 10% commission?

So here is what I propose: Let’s drop the word “hit” from our entire PR vocabulary. That, I believe, would go a very long way in debunking the general public’s view that we’re all hucksters out to sell us the next great concept. It’s an awful jargon term that often offends reporters, and worse, makes us seem like shallow used car salesmen. So if we want to turn around the public sentiment for our business and actually look, act, and feel like an industry that is here to help others, rather than just ourselves, let’s try calling it something else . . . maybe “made a connection.” That’s really corny, I know, but damnit, it’s actually true and doesn’t make us sound like shallow schleps just looking to propel our own personal agendas.

So why do you think the salesman mentality sometimes permeates into PR? Should we be in this for our agencies and organizations, or are we in this world and business for our own personal gains? And what’s your suggestion for a better term than “hit” for making that next big connection for a client?

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