Gini Dietrich

PR People Suck

By: Gini Dietrich | December 8, 2010 | 
65

Alright. That’s a gross generalization. After all, I’m a PR professional. And I’m pretty darn good at my job. But this blog isn’t named Spin Sucks because we don’t like DJs. It’s named Spin Sucks because there are far too many PR people who do, indeed, suck.

It’s a joke in our office. I always say, “I love it when other PR people make us look so good.” And it happens more often than one would think (like daily).

Which leads me to a downright offensive blog post written last week by an “actual employee at an actual PR company; one you’ve heard of if you’ve heard of any.” And she goes by the anonymous pseudonym of “Sarah.”

You see, I was stalking Danny Brown (as I’ve been known to do a time or two) and I found “When PR Has Its Head Up Its Ass.” I went on to read that Danny had been reading Mom Blog Magazine (still trying to figure out what he was doing there) and found a post titled, “Why PR People Get Paid and You Don’t.”

The post was directed to bloggers. Allow me to take some excerpts from the post for your entertainment…and perhaps to get your blood boiling, as it did mine.

“You’re writing a blog post. Let’s stop pretending your blog is a world-changing event and recognize it for what it is–something transient that may be gone tomorrow if you flake out or change your mind or your Uncle Vinny finds your blog and you realize you don’t really want him to know where you live because you still owe him money.”

“There’s no contract. You don’t promise to say nice things about the company. The PR person does. They have to sell a product no matter what that product is, and they sell it with a smile even if it kicks puppies and makes babies cry. You don’t have this obligation. You have the freedom that comes with NOT having a paycheck to answer to.”

“You are not expected to show up at 8 a.m. dressed business casual and go to countless meetings.  You get to do and say whatever you want as long as you plop a disclaimer at the end.”

“You don’t get to decide to be a professional blogger but then decide you want the lifestyle, paycheck, and perks of having an out-of-the-house PR job.”

“No one I have ever talked to in the PR industry judges a blogger for choosing to be a stay-at-home mom who makes money or gets stuff for the kids and family by blogging or decides to be a blogger because they were laid off and wanted to create a portfolio. But the minute you flash a me-too mentality by saying, “You get paid, I should too.” THEN we judge you.”

I’m sorry. THEN we judge you?! Since when is it OK to judge anyone for anything? Ever heard the saying, “Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”??

But that’s neither here nor there. This was a week ago and my blood pressure still rises when I read this crap. And it’s crap. We’ve talked here before about how bad it is to treat bloggers like second-class citizens because, I’m sorry you guys, but bloggers are today’s media. No matter how you feel about them. You can’t do your job without them…and that means treating them with the same respect you treat traditional reporters.

So I asked two of the nicest people I know, Joe Thornley and Martin Waxman, to calm me down in today’s episode of Inside PR. I’m not sure they did a great job of that, mostly because they were having more fun feeding the fire. You can listen to our debate here, but please come back and tell me what YOU think about Sarah and her anonymous blog post. Perhaps you can calm me down. Or not.

Image courtesy of Danny Carlino

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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65 Comments on "PR People Suck"

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jonbuscall
5 years 4 months ago

To be honest, she sounded like someone very scared of PR 2.0. That’s why she was on the attack.

joey_strawn
5 years 4 months ago

I got the same feeling you and Danny had about this issue. I stopped by today mainly to say “HELL YES!” really loudly to agree with you.

I also wanted to say how awesome it is that you used that picture for this. I closed my presentation at Barcamp Nashville this year with that very image. Still makes me laugh.

Awesome.

DonovanGroupInc
DonovanGroupInc
5 years 4 months ago
I’m with Jon on this one – not seeing the online media in the same light as the traditional media (in my mind) is akin to not treating your internal clients the way you would treat your external clients. Sarah needs to choose another profession if she has this much pent up rage towards an audience that can have a tremendous impact on what people think and feel about her client’s products. Perhaps by subscribing to Spin Sucks she’ll do a bit of internalizing and change her attitude about her chosen profession…if not then as you say Gini…just another PR… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 4 months ago

@jonbuscall I also think she’s probably pretty young and inexperienced. But it still makes me angry.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 4 months ago

@joey_strawn Mr. D said, “You say PR people suck and call them douchebags?! You ARE fired up!” It is AWESOME. And I’d also like to point out how far behind you are from me. Some competition. Hrumph.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 4 months ago

@DonovanGroupInc Not every other PR pro, Andy. Some PR pros…because not all of them are good. There are plenty of us who are good and people like this make us look good. But, unfortunately, there are many more who aren’t good, which is why we’re always grouped with lawyers and used car salesmen.

JulieWalraven
5 years 4 months ago
Hi Gini, I commented on Danny’s post and then went and read the orginal post. Since there have been many edits and apparently comments deleted on the original post, it was hard to get a clear defition of who Sarah was, and why she chose an anonymous facade to write her thoughts. I do agree with Jon below and know from my own hometown that there are many marketing firms and PR firms that are challenged by the visibility of so many bloggers who can convey a message faster than ever before. However, this new media or whatever we call… Read more »
DonovanGroupInc
DonovanGroupInc
5 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich Okay – fair enough. I guess the first step in the process is speaking out against this type of mind set. And I think getting one’s blood boiling is a good thing from time to time as it re-ignites out conviction of what we do and do well for our clients.

BetsyMolloy
BetsyMolloy
5 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich @jonbuscall I totally agree, she sounds very unprofessional and obviously doesn’t sound like she knows the industry much at all. It;’s kind of sad because it puts a bad taste in your mouth for all the others who are professional and do know their stuff.

abarcelos
5 years 4 months ago
Sarah’s anonymous post was one of the most self-righteous posts I’ve ever read. Sarah (burns me, because that’s my daughter’s name; why couldn’t she have picked another name?! I digress…). Quite simply, she should be fired, and she probably would’ve been, which is obviously why she wrote anonymously. Most importantly, the feeling I got from the whole post – the arrogance, rudeness, condescension – is a typical representation of the traditional PR agencies, even today. We run into them every week (for those who work with them). There are professional ways of dealing with situations, and “Sarah” must be junior… Read more »
lenkendall
lenkendall
5 years 4 months ago

To me this is a pretty simple issue. It’s not about good PR people, or bad PR people. It’s just about good and bad people period. There are plenty of arrogant and ignorant individuals spanning every industry and although I realize this blog is intended for (I’m still not used to calling it) “our” community, it’s really just a lesson in knowing the line that spans between provocative and detrimental to both self and industry.

joey_strawn
5 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich Yeah, yeah. I’m a 4th quarter kind of guy. You don’t know, I could be Livefyre shark, this is all part of the plan.

meganbeausang
meganbeausang
5 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich @joey_strawn I too would like to point out that picture rocks. So appropriate.

josgovaart
josgovaart
5 years 4 months ago

Gini, What if I don’t want you to calm down on these kind of issues?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 4 months ago

@josgovaart Then, by all means, feed the fire! I’m way more fun when I’m angry about something.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 4 months ago

@lenkendall You’re absolutely right. And maybe it’s because I’m in the industry, but it feels especially rampant in PR. I don’t know if it’s the lack of any real accreditation or the fact that it’s not tangible, but people in our industry tend to get on their high horses a lot.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 4 months ago

@lenkendall You’re absolutely right. And maybe it’s because I’m in the industry, but it feels especially rampant in PR. I don’t know if it’s the lack of any real accreditation or the fact that it’s not tangible, but people in our industry tend to get on their high horses a lot.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 4 months ago

@abarcelos And that’s why, Anna, we always joke about other PR people making us look good. For the same reasons you cite about what you run into daily. AND you have my permission to smack me if I or anyone I work with behaves this way. It is a firing offense in my book. And let me see what I can about her choosing a different name. :)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 4 months ago

@JulieWalraven I have nothing more to say than AMEN!

rachaelseda
5 years 4 months ago

What annoys me more is Mom Blog Magazines intro for the anonymous Sara, “Don’t miss this post from our only anonymous columnist, Sarah, who works at an actual PR firm and has smart advice and keen observations to share.” Smart advice?! Maybe they need to double check her credentials or is that anonymous too?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 4 months ago

@DonovanGroupInc The problem is, though, I’m preaching to the choir here. I nee to figure out how to get in front of the people who really need ot hear this, but they don’t typically read blogs.

apegan
apegan
5 years 4 months ago

It seems to me that some of the most self-righteous PR people also tend to be the biggest hacks who pay the least amount of attention to the fact that things have CHANGED. Bloggers are very much a part of the new media. In my PR experience, I’ve seen bloggers steal the online authority right out from under professional medical associations simply because they blogged, tweeted and started a conversation.

Here’s hoping things change soon! Great post!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 4 months ago

@BetsyMolloy Yes, Betsy. It’s sad because it DOES put a bad taste in your mouth for those who do their jobs well. Getting fired up again! :)

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich @josgovaart If you move A-D to California Gini you can get a Legal Medical Prescritpion for those ultra-aggro days. Just make sure you keep the kitchen loaded with snacks. Or if you insist on staying in Chicago because its easier to keep your party yacht on the Lake vs the Ocean, try some Genmaicha Green Tea w/ Roasted Brown Rice. It has that warm rich earthy taste of comfort with just the right amount of caffiene to sooth the aggro soul.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 4 months ago

@apegan Great, great point! It’s like PR people working in the digital departments at big agencies and being treated like they don’t know what they’re doing. Um. They have the same education and experience as those in the PR departments…but they’ve taken their expertise and applied it to the new technologies. They’re not the ones who don’t know what they’re doing.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 4 months ago

@rachaelseda I LOVED her bio at the end.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 4 months ago

@HowieSPM @josgovaart Or I can just wait until the prescription is legal in Chicago and not have to worry about moving.

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 4 months ago
@ginidietrich @lenkendall Yay Len came into the SpinSucks house! I think every industry and profession there are good and bad. Some its innocent. They either excel or are inept but somehow don’t get forced into a new line of work. Others are truly good and bad. I see this in Advertising. On the one hand you have agencies stealing brands blind, then hiding under ‘its a creative industry you shouldn’t use traditional ROI tools to judge our success”. Which is the biggest crock of shit outside of LoanSharking and Politics. We just happen to be in industries with low barriers… Read more »
rachaelseda
5 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich @DonovanGroupInc Hahaha…you just made me laugh out loud because I can hear the sarcasm in your tone Gini…did you comment on the elusive Sarah’s post or at the Mom Blog people on Twitter…I wonder if they would reply..hmm

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 4 months ago

@meganbeausang @ginidietrich @joey_strawn Funny you have no idea how many times I wanted to use the word Douche on this blog when commenting and refrained because I felt I would tar the Femmist Empowering Women aura. And now I feel liberated!

rachaelseda
5 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich Too funny, just read it! Oh grr…sorry to say I can’t help you calm down because you have not gotten me all riled up!

KristenDaukas
KristenDaukas
5 years 4 months ago
So I’m not sure which angle to comment on.. I read this article last week as well and understanding the stance of the site owner (who I know personally) which is “mom bloggers shouldn’t blog about products for free”, I see where she was going with having “Sarah” give her “PR perspective”. That being said, when I read it with my marketing hat on, my reaction was.. Sarah and other PR peeps like her would love nothing more than to have Mom bloggers give their products a thumbs up FOR FREE and then take all the credit themselves. Have the… Read more »
wabbitoid
5 years 4 months ago

“May you live in interesting times” is generally taken as a curse. The attitude that you are commenting on clearly comes from someone who has become fascinated nearly into oblivion. :-)

It’s also worth noting that some of us who blog write carefully, thoughtfully, and regularly. The pay remains lousy no matter how professional the effort is. We all have something to gripe about.

CLGraphics
CLGraphics
5 years 4 months ago
Hmmm… It seems I’ve stepped in something. Any one have a stick to scrape this off the bottom of my shoe? Oh, wait, never mind, it’s just ‘Sarah’s’ post. …. Gini, and all the rest, … You’re dead on. It’s a ridiculous post, puerile at best. Frankly, it’s so ludicrous that it can’t be taken seriously in any way – unless perhaps as a bit of failed satire. And now I’m going to do one of the things I like to do… Enter the Devil’s Advocate … Gini, your post and all these comments, including mine, as well as your… Read more »
Timmermans
Timmermans
5 years 4 months ago

It’s good to realize that the same ‘problems’ occur all over the world. Even though one can figure it out, it’s good to get the affirmation from collegues. Thanks for the insight
Cheers from The Netherlands.
Marike

griner
griner
5 years 4 months ago

I was following the “Sarah” fiasco as it was exploding (even got to see her sauciest and most immature replies before they were deleted).

I find myself wanting people to just ignore such obvious attention-baiting, but after reading your post (and several more from the mom blogger’s perspetive), I think it was good in this case to give the blogger what she wanted….an offended and incensed audience. And I’m especially glad to see your response. It’s always important to show bloggers that there’s never something so simple as “our side” and “their side.”

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 4 months ago

@wabbitoid And some of us are like cruise missiles writing neither eloquently, tactfully, or with thoughts of reprecussions. But trust me, we wish were capable of otherwise!

beckyjohns
beckyjohns
5 years 4 months ago
I read that post too, and as both a PR professional AND blogger, I was a little conflicted with how I felt about it. While I understand she was trying to use a sarcastic tone, she didn’t do a very good job of treating bloggers with respect while she tried to make her points. Maintaining a blog is a labor of love. Most of the time, it’s not going to pay the bills. If a blogger does get to a point of having their blog support them financially, then they should realize they’ve struck a gold mine and not confuse… Read more »
rwohlner
rwohlner
5 years 4 months ago

Gini at the risk of getting blood pressure back up I found nothing wrong with the post, it made total sense to this neophyte blogger.

Daleus
Daleus
5 years 4 months ago
As neither a PR person, or a blogger, this was the line that sent rats up my colon: “You don’t promise to say nice things about the company. The PR person does. They have to sell a product no matter what that product is, and they sell it with a smile even if it kicks puppies and makes babies cry.” If that’s what makes anyone good at anything, then burn baby burn. What kind of person will do something that’s morally reprehensible, just for a buck. To me, that’s the kind of attitude that makes a lot of PR people… Read more »
Owhit
Owhit
5 years 4 months ago
This is the kind of post that I’m going to hear about at the dinner table with family over the holidays. “Whitney, why do you want to work in a field where people are so negative and self-righteous?” I don’t want to use the word “hate” but honestly, this is my biggest pet peve with people who don’t take the time to really consider what PR is about. (Especially those people who are PR practitoners!) I don’t know if your blood pressure has calmed yet Gini, but I know mine has now sky rocketed. Thanks for this post I love… Read more »
JefferyBialek
JefferyBialek
5 years 4 months ago
For a conversation starter, it was obviously a good one… The issue lies in the authoratative nature of the post…as if Sarah, from the PR world, has the right or the insight to make pronouncements, let alone judgements(!) on behalf of the PR world… The danger in these posts, if the ensuing conversation is not studied and consumed, is that some folks will take Sarah’s thoughts as gospel and run with them without exploring alternative thoughts or ideas…obviously this can be said for any blog, for any post…which all ties back to traditional media and the importance of not believing… Read more »
KevinVandever
KevinVandever
5 years 4 months ago

IT people rule!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 4 months ago

@KevinVandever LOL!!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 4 months ago

@KristenDaukas Oh I’m not disputing that mom bloggers shouldn’t blog about products for free. I think we all have jobs to do and if that’s how they make their money, more power to them! But I think you’re right with your marketing hat on…we have to think about bloggers as media. And we would have no qualms about sending a washer and dryer to the NY Times. Why do we have to be squirrely about sending it to the right five to 10 bloggers?!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 4 months ago

@HowieSPM @wabbitoid And some of us. Crap. I have nothing. What Erik said!

FranchiseKing
5 years 4 months ago

Hi Gini,

My hair is getting grayer just waiting for the day when I get a Personalized pitch from a PR professional that includes the following;

“And Joel, we’d love to find a way to compensate you for helping us spread the word with your post and/or interview of our client. We’re open to your dollar amount suggestions.”

At least I’m not going bald. Yet.

The Franchise King®

eggmarketing
eggmarketing
5 years 4 months ago
You took a lot out of context on that post. Sure it was harsh, but it does provide bloggers tips on how to get paid. And face it: how many of them ask you for payment on a project? I’m guessing not many. Most don’t have the business savvy to know how to do it or the confidence to ask. Her point about “everyone starts in the mailroom” is true. I’m in PR and work with bloggers but I’m not going to pay someone with 10 visits a month when I would pay someone with 10,000. It was harsh, but… Read more »
eggmarketing
eggmarketing
5 years 4 months ago
You took a lot out of context on that post. Sure it was harsh, but it does provide bloggers tips on how to get paid. And face it: how many of them ask you for payment on a project? I’m guessing not many. Most don’t have the business savvy to know how to do it or the confidence to ask. Her point about “everyone starts in the mailroom” is true. I’m in PR and work with bloggers but I’m not going to pay someone with 10 visits a month when I would pay someone with 10,000. It was harsh, but… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 4 months ago

@CLGraphics See, Peter, this is what bugs me about PR (and why we named the blog Spin Sucks). There is such a thing as bad PR (ask the DecorMyEyes CEO) and, while people are talking about this, the publicity around it is mostly negative. I don’t know – I’ve always been of the belief that there is good PR and bad PR and you don’t want the latter. As Warren Buffet says, “You can lose the firm money and I’ll be understanding. But if you lose the firm reputation, I will be ruthless.”

And…you’re welcome! :)

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