Gini Dietrich

Narcos Proves the Perception of a PR Firm is Not Good

By: Gini Dietrich | November 4, 2015 | 

Narcos Proves the Perception of a PR Firm is Not GoodBy Gini Dietrich

Have you watched Narcos on Netflix? I started watching it last week and, man, is it good!

It’s about Pablo Escobar and the “narcos” who brought cocaine into the United States. In the first episode, alone, you learn how they smuggled it into Miami in, well, quite some creative ways.

Once the DEA started tracking them, they figured out how to beat the drug sniffing dogs by painting it into the fiberglass of boats.

The creativity and entrepreneurship was incredible. Unfortunately, it was against the law and thousands of people lost their lives in the war against drugs.

Ingenuous or not, they decided they needed to hire some help to build their reputations as good guys. Entrepreneurs. Men of the people. But mostly to fight against extradition to the United States, where “jail is worse than death.”

A PR Firm Charges a Lot of Money for Nothing

In the fourth episode, one of the narcos hires a PR firm, which caused me to start yelling at the TV.

This is what is wrong with our industry! It’s not like that!

The PR firm is portrayed as charging a lot of money to do nothing.

To be fair, this is the perception most have about PR professionals, which is the sole reason this blog exists.

But still…we’ll never get beyond that if we don’t figure out how to measure our results and prove we are investment, not just a bunch of crooks who trick executives into hiring us, take their money, and run.

Because that is exactly how we are portrayed. That or we’re party planners who wear high heels and drink martinis into the wee hours of the night (case in point: I was asleep by 9:00 last night).

A PR Firm is Full of Crooks!

Wag the Dog. Sex & the City. Mad Men.

They all portray us as crooks who are great at talking and great at taking someone’s money, but not great at doing anything. And, unfortunately, that’s the way we’re portrayed in real life.

How many times have you heard, “We’ve worked with a PR firm in the past, but didn’t get any results?” Or, “We paid a lot of money to a PR professional and got nothing for it.”

If you work for a PR firm, I guarantee you hear this at least once a month. If you work inside an organization on the communications team, you probably heard this when you interviewed for your job.

It’s a real problem for an industry that is made of professionals who want to do a good job. Who know how to do a great job. But professionals who (mostly) aren’t good at math so shy away from the data.

Change the Perception

If you want to prove you are an investment, and not an expense. And if you are tired of the reputation the industry has and want to do something about it, get yourself educated on metrics. Do some professional development. Make it a priority.

You’ve already made a great first step by reading this blog post. You also can read these other Spin Sucks posts:

And I recommend you also read:

  1. How to Measure PR, by Christopher Penn
  2. Four PR Metrics You Can Start Using Today, by Gijs Nelissen
  3. How to Shift PR From Vanity Metrics to Value-Driven Measurement, by Rebekah Iliff
  4. Katie Paine’s Measurement Blog

Let’s change the perception people have of us and show our real value to an organization!

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. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • In fairness, Narcos is set in the 80’s and 90’s, at the height of Escobar’s fame. Pretty much every industry (advertising, PR, marketing) was a very different beast then to what it is now, as evidenced by the importance now put on the very metrics you mention.
    On Narcos itself, I’ve always found Escobar to be a fascinating figure. Here you have this criminal that, as you say, is dealing death. Yet he’s also a saint for giving to the poor, and implementing educational and medical facilities for those that needed it most.
    Can criminals equally be heroes?

  • I’m only 3 episodes in, so….. thanks for the spoiler alert. 😉

  • I’m no episodes in, so….thanks for the spoiler alert and thanks for the recommended blogs. 😉

  • I am still reading the Breaking Bad. Now you want me reading the Narcos?

  • I meant to say isn’t this what the PR industry is all about?

  • Howie Goldfarb  Breaking Bad, he dies in the end. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

  • Danny Brown AND…he was very enterprising and smart. Imagine what he could have done if he used that for good.

  • KristenDaukas Ha! It’s not a spoiler. You’ll see. It’s very, very minor. It just made me mad!

  • Digital_DRK Ha! It’s so good! But I’m like Danny…I’m fascinated by this kind of stuff.

  • Howie Goldfarb Happy Birthday!

  • ginidietrich Oh, wait until you get more into the series and see what could have been… 🙂

  • KateNolan

    Digital_DRK Howie Goldfarb I thought that was The Sixth Sense? Wait, no, he dies in the beginning there. Nevermind!

  • Haven’t watched it but started Mad Men and possibly gave up too quickly. 

    It’s amazing the perception that’s out there. Even my orthopedic doctor started in on how crooked PR types are when I told him I worked in marcom at the local Christian college. Sheesh. I was terrified he wasn’t going to give me my pain management injection and would just let me suffer.

  • Howie Goldfarb Happy Birthday!!!!

  • I really need to watch this show.  It sounds totally fascinating. 

    And I always love hearing people talk about what they think I do. It’s amazing to hear not only what they think I do, but why they thing my personality or “look” is the obvious fit for a career in PR and communications….it makes me laugh, but is very telling.

  • Word Ninja Are you still in Asheville contemplating where to have breakfast? I laughed out loud when I saw that!

  • LauraPetrolino I just saw a video where mid-20s ask their parents to describe what they do and the answers are hilarious! So it’s not just our profession. I mean, I have a drawing that my niece did a few years ago that is called Aunt Gini at Work and I am sitting on top of a computer. This is what she thinks I do. Another niece thinks I “write magazines.”

  • ginidietrich I wish. But if you ever go there, check out Sunny Point Cafe or Biscuit Head (b/c who wouldn’t want a biscuit the size of a cat head?)!

  • Word Ninja I haven’t been there in a few years. It’s a great town!

  • nmangan

    It’s sad how the media portrays PR firms and blames them for misrepresenting the truth or not doing what is expected. Unlike advertising, public relations efforts are harder to control because you sometimes have to rely on another media entity or someone else to get your message across and that is not easy.

  • nmangan No, it’s not easy! And you’re at their mercy. Completely.

  • ginidietrich LauraPetrolino I thought you did sit on top of the computer?

  • Danny Brown ginidietrich I LOVED THIS SERIES. Can’t wait for the next season.

  • jasonkonopinski I fell asleep watching episode six of the first season. So I have a long ways to go.

  • Very interesting. I definitely agree that modern PR is portrayed negativity in the media. I appreciate your advice on how we should change this perception.

  • allison_caley It’s going to take all of us to do it!