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The state of the (PR) nation


After an approach from a TV program – which we jumped at – I was lucky enough to spend some time late last week with a TV crew, shooting at one of the restaurants we represent.  Of course, I attended the shoot to make sure the sailing was smooth, reassure and brief our chef who gets a bit camera shy and enable the TV crew to get the shots they needed quickly and efficiently.

I got chatting between takes to the lovely presenter (as you do when building relationships) who started telling me his thoughts about the parlous state of the world of PR.

He was scathing about the lack of professionalism that seems to be exhibited by our industry at every turn (present company excluded of course!).  Actually he didn’t really have too many nice things to say which was disappointing to say the least.  But it got me thinking…….what makes a good PR and why is our industry so judged?

So, what does it take to be a good PR?  A few things came to mind immediately ……

1. A command of the English language. The ability to write clearly, evocatively and for your demographic is a given. And don’t get me started on the correct use of apostrophes!  How can anyone claim to tell stories if they can’t write and punctuate?

2. The ability to pitch a story and think on your feet. The best laid ideas for a pitch to a journalist don’t always go to plan. The ability to know your material, be able to shift direction quickly and think on your feet is a must. And an understanding of the journalist and what they’re interested in.  Vital.

3. Respond to media requests quickly and make sure your clients understand the importance of a timely response. Journos live and die by deadlines, and they’re usually tight. Respond quickly and your success is more likely.

4. Be detailed when organizing events. Work the GANTT chart and run sheets and make sure everyone is informed. Hold regular briefing sessions, distribute run sheets, think logically and most importantly STAY CALM. No one takes any confidence from an hysterical event organizer. You’re there to facilitate and troubleshoot but you’re not the star. Your client is. Remember that.

5. Be nice to people. You’re often asking for their help.  And I mean everyone.  Clients, couriers, hotel people, venue managers, receptionists, media, graphic designers, web people, printers ….. anyone who is going to work with you and help you to deliver a result.  Play nice.  It works.

There are hundreds more …..maybe for another blog post.

So all of that sounds pretty professional, right?  So why the bad rap for PRs?  I have been running my business for almost ten years and I reckon I’ve learnt a thing or two along the way. And I’ve seen a lot of people in our space come and go. I’ve also seen some amazing PRs who I have the utmost respect for- as both practitioners and competitors.

The TV presenter had lots to say about that. Spoilt princesses (mainly) who have no focus on clients just themselves and their CV – and curating jobs that look ‘impressive’. The inability to trouble shoot.  Poor communication skills.  Never saying thank you.   Immaturity.  No care and no passion for the task at hand.  Thinking about PR as just a ‘job’ not a career that demands professionalism.  The  list went on and I became more and more uptight that this is the way we’re seen.

I take my job and this industry seriously.  I try to do the best for my clients whilst keeping our role in perspective.  We’re not saving lives but we’re partly responsible for our clients’ success.  And they have families to feed and bills to pay too.

At FireWorks, nothing turns us on more than having our clients in the spotlight. We’ve done our job.  And I try to engender the same sense of care and responsibility in my team.  And most importantly, I realise that all I’m really selling is my time, expertise, passion and reputation.  And ain’t that precious.

So to all of those PRs out there who think they’re here for a short ride to somewhere else, get off the train.  The seats are all taken.


Kathy Lane