Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Everyone Knows PR Writing Is Bad...

Now That We Have That Out of the Way, Does the Industry Have The Guts To Do Something About It?

There's an interesting discussion going on at (and not because I contributed to it) about why many in the public relations business simply don't know how to write well, or how those who do are stymied by clueless superiors.
As Mark Ragan notes: "one of the kids hired by the agencies and billed out at $150 an hour have the slightest idea what they're writing about. They don't understand the product or the client. They have no background in the industry, and they never learned how to write in college."
Exactly. And they are not alone. Their bosses and, probably, their boss' boss, are likely in the same boat.
The problem is several-fold. PR people:

--Put out crap masquerading as a press release because "that's the way it's always done."
--Are often clueless about the media because they often don't have a journalism background, don't read newspapers, watch or listen to the news.
--Often have clients who are just as obtuse, and are afraid to stand up to them or their lawyers, who insist on adding buzzwords, jargon and assorted gobbledygook that make the release all but useless to a reporter.
--Have a stunning lack of hubris and prefer operating in a vacuum.
--Are faced with a shortage of mentors who can show them a better way, i.e. writing an article like a feature or in the style of a news article to increase the chances of verbatim pickup.
--Get hired by people looking for other skills, such as strategic thinking, budgeting and ability to butt-kiss. Writing goes to the back of the line.

Most commenters gave an "amen" to Ragan's view, although there are a few naysayers like "Ray," who is resentful of journalists who love to hate PR people and then later switch careers and "think they can be immediate PR experts."
Chances are, Ray, if you spent a few years in the news business, it wouldn't take long to get the hang of the PR thing and make the transformation from hack to flak. But the other way around? Not a chance. The sooner the PR world -- especially agencies -- owns up to that, and embraces media professionals rather than shun them as no-goodniks, the better.

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