Over the last week or two, I’ve had a few sad calls from young PRs.
I’ve tried to be nice but the calls have been dreadful. They go like this:
PR: Hi. I’m XXX from PR Agency YYY. I see you have a feature on topic ZZZ.
Me: Yes I do. Who’s your client?
PR: Company A.
Me: Why do they belong in this feature?
PR: Ummm … I’m not sure. Their products help people to communicate
My client sell solutions for this
I think my client might work in this area.
Me: Yes, but lots of companies do the same thing. Why does your client belong in the feature?
What sort of solutions?
Okay: I understand they are in the right areas. What is their response to the three questions I wrote in my feature brief? It would be nice to know that, before committing to an interview with no idea of what might be said.
PR: I don’t know. I’d better ask them.
I don’t blame the young PRs for this. They are young. They have little experience and therefore are not very good at pitching … yet.
My anger for these calls – which are supreme time wasters for all concerned – is not directed at the kids. It’s directed at their managers.
Why are these kids being hung out to dry by their bosses? Why aren’t these kids – who have to be pretty smart to get a gig in PR – coached and educated to make better calls than these? Why aren’t their colleagues giving them some techniques that help them to deal with a senior (I don’t think I’m big-noting myself here) journalist?
And why can’t their managers, who are, after all, allegedly good at managing reputations, see that their agency’s reputation is being trashed every time they put an inexperienced and under-educated person on the phone?
I understand the need for some on-the-job learning. I understand that a kind of Darwinian test that winnows out those who can pitch and those who cannot is important in PR. That’s why the kids who make the calls have my respect. They’re having a go. Often, they plug away with multiple, increasingly futile, calls. They’re trying to get the job done.
But the people they work for, I believe, often have not taught them how to do the job adequately. The constant calls I receive in which young PRs know nothing about the technology their clients offer, their clients’ activities and the wider technology industry leads me to believe the kids just are not getting decent on-the-job training.
That’s cruel, unfair … and massively stupid for dozens of reasons. And if you use a PR agency – you’re paying for this at probably 50% of agencies I deal with.