The silly things that PR people say by Trevor Morris

I like PR and I like PR people. Generally we are an entertaining, quick-thinking and broad-minded bunch.

But there are some PR people who say some very silly things.

PR people who say conventional media is dead. It evidently isn’t, not least because the people who rule, run and own the country still consume it.

PR people who say advertising is dead. It also evidently isn’t dead or even dying, and if it was PR would be in big trouble as advertising pays for the vast majority of media – on and off-line – that PR spends so much time trying to get into.

PR people who say integrated communication is the future. It is a bit like saying tomorrow is the future. Tomorrow has been the future since time began! Integrated communications is obviously a good thing and always has been. The question is how best to achieve it. In fact the trend is to have communication services delivered by industry or skill specialists rather than generalists. I go to my doctor for an initial diagnosis and to treat my more basic ailments. I go to a specialist for the more serious stuff. A PR firm or practitioner who claims they can deliver total integration is as worrying as the local GP who says they can do your heart surgery as well as prescribe you the pill.

PR people who say strategy a lot. A strategy is a plan. Saying strategy a lot doesn’t make you sound clever – it makes you sound like you have a limited vocabulary.

PR people who say they: “Deliver business transformation through a collaborative strategic communication framework underpinned by exemplary governance”. There is a growing view that new immigrants should have to learn to speak English – well, so should these weird PROs.

PR people who use platitudes like: “Today PR is all about the message and audience” – as though it wasn’t in the past. Or people who attack their rivals by saying: “They just don’t get it“. Not agreeing with someone doesn’t mean you don’t get it, it means … errrr … that you have a different point of view.

PR people who claim PR should be a more moral activity … therefore implying that there is only one set of morals (theirs) and that they are more moral than others. PR, just like other human endeavours such as business, law, journalism, politics and activism, is an essential part of a vibrant democracy – a means by which competing ideas, products and beliefs can be heard and argued over. Which ideas, beliefs and products are moral is a matter of opinion, not fact.

So PR people who spout cliché, platitudes, jargon or management pseudo-science – please stop it. We are meant to be great at communications – that means our meaning should be clear and accessible.

Trevor Morris, professor at Richmond University and co-author of the guide to public relations, PR Today

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