Are We Doing it to Ourselves?


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Portrait of a Well Dressed Woman Posing with a Lamp on Her HeadOur business (or as I usually call it, “the biz”) is now, and may always have been, at a cusp. Our job functions are spreading farther and wider (and depth frequently becoming thinner and thinner, like so much marshmallow fluff on a fluffernutter) that what we’re actually here to do, what we’ve been trained to do and gotten experience in, suffers greatly in quality and uniqueness.

Is it any wonder our families, and even clients sometimes, have no real idea of what we do when our education and training contradict our duties? That we’re here trying to provide strategic guidance on communications and image issues yet simultaneously diminishing the value of our own masthead through our actions?

Based on the war stories I hear (yes, for some reason your employees complain to me), tweets I see, and cv line items from prior jobs it seems increasingly we’re taking on the role of customer service agent (or at least appearing to), clerical support staff for clients (in non-media contexts), and the “occasional” other job that has nothing to do with our core skills of communications.

It doesn’t help that we’re finally getting out of a bit of a slump in the money department and for years the best way to keep clients has been to make sure they aren’t unhappy. Consider how often, if ever, you’ve said to a client “But that’s not what we do here” compared to the number of times you’ve had to tell an employee they’re being sent to the client’s office to help them organize their Rolodex on the premise that if they can find a reporter’s contact information they’ll be better situated for PR, knowing full well it’s a crock of…soup?

So then after all – is it our fault? Maybe, possibly? The lack of talent, the disrespect of the clients, the entire industry on our backs that is basically a chimera of itself?

Do we bemoan our desire for good writing and communications skills and then not let the recruits get the chance to flex that muscle until they’ve lost all enthusiasm for what brought them to our business to begin with?

When did we start bragging about our employee’s professionalism and abilities and then allow the client to dictate who on the account does what, or to turn our valued staff into free clerical labor, booth babes, or other non-communications staff? After all, a little T&A never hurt anyone…

Since when is it professional to complain about a lack of hours in the day and then allow the staff to become couriers, wasting away while the client figures out what they want next or spend (the financial equivalent) of more man hours than a product is worth, ferrying it back and forth.

Can we take ourselves seriously while selling our professional staff’s education, experience, and smarts to new clients, but still always bring eye-candy to the pitch meeting (And yes, that includes men in our business)?

Lawyers don’t prepare our taxes or accountants fix our plumbing; since when did we become clerical staff, product demo staff and couriers? Let’s not lose sight of what we’re here to do.

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