PR firms, collectively, are PR-challenged. We are often seen as scheming, secretive, greedy hucksters of “spin.”
That makes potential clients, even those who could really benefit from our actual services, think twice about hiring one of us. Unfortunately, this reputation is hard-earned because of the garbage pulled by some firms, quite often the biggest ones, like what journalists in Washington brought to light this week.
Just read this piece in The Washington Post. It explains how a mega-firm used taxpayer money to try to covertly get information out of reporters, without revealing their client and even offering a reward for information. Worst of all, they did this over email.
If it’s portrayed as sleazy by The Post, that’s because it is. Never mind the firm was probably using very junior people to do the dirty work while charging DC premium rates.
Often, when we start with a new client, it is helpful to know what journalists think about covering that client. It helps us understand what we’re walking into and how we can do a better job of working with the client to get the journalists what they need, when they need it. But it always happens with full disclosure. And it happens over the phone, to increase the level of candor and quality and efficiency of conversation. Sometimes, if more dialogue is needed, we’ll meet in person. This business is about relationships and mutually-beneficial relationships aren’t based on hiding information while asking for advice.
From exorbitant fees to overstaffing accounts to pulling this garbage, these firms make us all look like frauds We won’t get them to stop their behavior but it’s time unsuspecting clients get wise and stop rewarding it.