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Gini Dietrich

The PR Industry Does Need Better PR

By: Gini Dietrich | May 15, 2013 | 
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The PR Industry Does Need Better PRIt’s 5:23 a.m. and I’m sitting at my desk, watching the neighborhood start to light up as the sun rises.

The birds are chirping, squirrels (I hate those little rats with fuzzy tails) are running across the telephone wires, and people are beginning to walk their dogs.

As is my ritual, I start my day reading, particularly if I don’t already know what I’m going to blog about, which is the case this morning.

Sure, I could write about the absolute disaster that is Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro, but I think the way those business owners are behaving on Facebook is completely on purpose (they’ve been known to behave the same way on other sites, such as Yelp) so I won’t give them more than a…it really is worth reading because the meltdown is epic.

The PR Industry Needs Better PR

So I opened an article Roula Amire sent me and went down the rabbit hole of clicking on all the links in the story.

Titled, “The PR Industry Needs Better PR,” I rejoiced and began to read.

The author, Martine St. Victor (such a great name!) tells the story of how Samantha Jones, the “promiscuous party-hopping commitment-phobic PR professional” from Sex & the City set the stage for the stereotype that is the profession.

Not to be outdone, of course, by PR Girls and Lizzie Grubman, who was arrested and jailed in 2002 for backing her car into a crowd of bystanders at a nightclub.

But what struck me the most about the article? Are you sitting down? This is going to hurt.

In a recent article entitled “How to Apply PR Skills at Networking Events,” the article’s author writes: “The best female publicists know how and when to reveal a bra strap.”

So, of course, I clicked.

PR Skills at Networking Events?

The article, written a couple of years ago, talks about how to use your PR skills at a networking event (I still haven’t figured out what PR skills those are, but we’ll go with it).

The author suggests things such as: Listen and interact, make eye contact, “it’s not about me; it’s about you,” and dress the part.

I’m still trying to figure out how those are PR skills, but still going with it.

  1. Listen and interact. “The worst publicists talk to you and ask few questions. The best publicists know how to drive conversations.” First of all, PR and publicity are not the same. I feel like I’m going to say that until I’m literally blue in the face, but they’re not the same. Secondly, these are not skills of publicists. These are skills of human beings who know how to listen.
  2. Make eye contact. “This is a common sense rule, but many people at this networking event failed to make consistent eye contact.” OK. I’ll give him this one…sort of. When we do media training, we teach executives not to look around the room while they’re talking to a reporter. Just like it does anyone else, it makes a journalist feel like you’re looking for someone more important. And, if you make a journalist feel that way, they’re surely to write a story about you that isn’t so flattering.

    That said, it’s not the skill of a PR person. I was recently at a fundraising dinner and a woman asked me a very specific question. While I answered her, she was scanning the room and, right in the middle of a sentence, she put her hand on my arm and said, “I’m so sorry. I see the Alderman over there.” And she bounced away. I felt like an idiot and now I have zero respect for her.

  3. It’s not about me. It’s about you. “In publicity, I tell clients we need to think of what the media needs – not what you need. It’s no different at networking events.” Again, not a PR skill. It’s a HUMAN BEING SKILL.
  4. Dress the part. But here’s the kicker: “The best female publicists know how and when to reveal a bra strap. The best male publicists know when a touch on the elbow is appropriate and how long to hold on during a handshake.” I have no words. NO. WORDS. The kicker? The people in the comments agree with this statement.

I’m with Martine St. Victor…the PR industry does need better PR.

Let’s start with those who call publicity PR and then move to those who think a bra strap revelation means you’re networking like a PR pro.

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.

136 comments
kadeeirene
kadeeirene

I agree the PR industry does need better PR - that bra strap article seems like it was bought from a content farm for $20 and not written (I hope anyway) by an actual professional. Still, this happens too often. Gini - I really enjoy your content on Spin Sucks. I'm fairly new out of college and I think I've learned more from reading your blog than I did in class. The strategy and holistic approach to PR that you talk about so often has really helped me re-frame what PR means to me and where/who I want to work with. 

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

This just has to stop. I mean.. it's not us I don't think, it's them - it's hacks, it's the clients who confuse publicity and fake stunts as PR, who confuse people skills and basic professionalism as 'industry' traits. Ugh. And don't get me started on the bra strap thing - that's made of so much FAIL, I'm not gonna bother. FWIW.

djenningspr
djenningspr

And as if the story wasn't bad enough five years ago, apparently the author felt it was worth resurrecting and having Ragan's PR Daily repost it today....sparing all from additional link love though...

DarenWms
DarenWms

Clearly the author is confusing good interpersonal skills with "PR skills" as you point out. My experience is that anyone who is a good "schmoozer" thinks they'd be "good at PR." Part of the problem may be that "PR" is used too loosely to describe our profession. Public relations is one skill. Media relations is another, as are employee communication, public affairs, issues and crisis management (or reputation management), etc. It seems to me all of these skills involve developing relationships with a variety of audiences. Perhaps we should rebrand PR as Relationship Management?

TaraGeissinger
TaraGeissinger

Suggesting that the flash of a bra strap or a lingering hand on an elbow could make or break my ability to network successfully is seriously maddening. I've been doing this all wrong....

photo chris
photo chris

I am also reminded of the phrase that I  want to shout at passing teens like a grandma, "Pull your pants up, your underwear is NOT an accessory!"  

Rodriguez247
Rodriguez247

Showing bra straps, touching elbows, long hand shakes... did you go back in time? I'm surprised that it was written last year, and not 20 years ago. BTW, I think I'm not alone when I say that I want to see SPIN Suck's take on that couple from Amy's Baking Company (jk)

Elja1op1
Elja1op1

Gini, what can I say - I love you for writing this (I wrote a long paragraph here about how it reminded me of Jon Bon Jovi's song 'Bad Medicine' but substituting 'PR' for love in the part where it goes 'you give love a bad name'. Because this rocks. Get it? But I deleted it. Just so you know). 

suzannem1
suzannem1

Victoria's Secret - The PR Collection.

ElissaFreeman
ElissaFreeman

As a visual lesson...simply check out my twitter account @elissapr to view the PROPER way to create bra slippage. I am available for any questions.... 

rustyspeidel
rustyspeidel

The internet has made it possible for anyone to "be in PR." Sadly, many are now "in PR" who have no business there. 

What's hard for me is that I CANNOT find a bra that really is very comfortable. It's a real pain and has been affecting my work.

ElissaFreeman
ElissaFreeman

Wait a second here. You mean I've been buying bras with uber-sexy straps FOR NO REASON AT ALL??? 

I'm devastated.


stevenmcoyle
stevenmcoyle

This is hilarious. "Know when a touch on the elbow is appropriate." I had no clue we were suppose to be creepers.

Gini have you done an article about Public Relation Professionals vs Publicists? My friends and I have this debate all the time about how publicists are not PR professionals.  

JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

Fortunately, everyone here is already concerned with being an awesome human. 

Which is how you do good business with people you like. 

susancellura
susancellura

OMG! That is hiliarious and so very sad! I am always disgusted with the way a bra strap looks when displayed, even when it is not intentional. And yet, so many women do it on purpose. Blerg. 

Back to the topic. Why, oh why, do women and others feel they need to play the "sex" card or continue to be okay with not being treated with respect in the business world? If you know what you are talking about and continue to back that up with good and great work, as well as stay ethical, then you don't need to show a bra strap or a little leg. If I were to do that, I would disrespect and disgust myself.

Of course, I also laughed a little because maybe PR needs a new name as well as better PR.

photo chris
photo chris

I'm so glad I woke up this morning to fall off a cliff and into, what, 1950? WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!?!? I "minored" in Women's Studies in college in 1996- NINETY_SIX, kept my maiden name when I married, married a man who came from a "traditional household" and somehow doesn't always like but "gets" that housework, childcare, life happens and is half his job, teach my daughter (AND my son when's he's old enough) to be strong and kind and that they can do anything and this, this, THIS is what some idiot has boiled networking and PR success into, showing a BRA STRAP and making eye contact while holding a hand/elbow for an appropriate time? I should sic my karate-chopping daughter on him when she is older- wouldn't THAT be a surprise to him? Ohhhh, I wasn't fully awake when I logged in this morning (Gini, 5:23- how do you DO that?!?) but I am UP now.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@3HatsComm I don't know if it will stop until kids are taught in school what the profession is really about. When we interview new college grads and we ask, "Why do you want to go into PR?" the answer is almost always, "I'm really good with people." What?!

JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

@djenningspr I was actually trying to avoid reading it, but then I saw the Ragan link and thought, oh that looks like something I should read....... D'oh. 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@susancellura I like to tell the story of when I worked on the Bayer Ag account, they sent me out into the corn and soybean fields to talk with the growers. I did nothing to pretend like I fit in. I am a city girl and I dress like one. So I'd show up in my suit and heels and these growers would look me up and down and then say to the camera guy, "Could you do the interview instead?" It became a game to me to see how quickly they became my friend when I opened my mouth and they realized I knew what I was talking about. In fact, I would wear the most ridiculous heels or business clothes I could find, just to perpetuate the image that I was clueless. 

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

@ginidietrich Ugh. But in a way that's a good deal breaker question for you.. helps you thin the no/yes piles pretty quickly. ITA on the education, which won't be at all easy as step one is teaching PR and Communication not as a one-week chapter in a marketing class, but given their own weight w/ that, accounting, finance, econ, etc. FWIW.

djenningspr
djenningspr

@JoeCardillo I had to do a double-take.  I initially thought, why would someone steal the idea from this blog for another one. After reading more, I realized pretty quickly what was going on....double D'oh!

Rodriguez247
Rodriguez247

 @ginidietrich It is the PR disaster that keeps on giving. There are now Facebook pages dedicated to the waitresses. What a train wreck, and I can't turn the other way.

photo chris
photo chris

@ginidietrich @photo chris Ha! The coffee and this hit AT THE SAME TIME- KA--POW! And then I go on to read all the brilliant, funny, wonderful things people pitched in with and I go, ahhh, riiiiight, sense of HUMOR!  I got a second cup and sent love to everyone who helped me have one. :-)

Trackbacks

  1. […] I read Gini Dietrich’s take on the state of the PR industry, The PR Industry Does Need Better PR, on her firm’s blog, Spin Sucks. Basically, Gini points out that what people think they know […]

  2. […] this week, I read a blog post that suggested you use your PR skills when […]

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  4. […] I like to think of as the human side of PR. When I read posts like Gini’s recent rant about how the ability to be considerate and carry a civilized conversation is called being a decent human bein… and is not a specialized PR skill, I want to jump up and shout “Hear, hear!” Her note on the […]