Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Too senior to make a media call? Think again.

About three years ago I hired a very senior guy out of a big multinational to join my firm. During my several interviews with him I never bothered to ask him if he could develop a plan, analyze research, manage people or for that matter, secure media coverage. Why would I ask such pedantic questions to such a seasoned PR prospect? After all, with his 15-plus years experience in the business, you don’t rise to the level of SVP in a big firm without doing all of the above… and a lot more.

Boy, was I wrong! After a couple of weeks, one of my employees told me that my shiny new SVP boastfully told his staff that he never had to make a media call in his life and that he’s not a media strategist. Oh, and he was damned proud of it too. One of our key offerings to clients is our media relations services and here I just hired this bozo, who slid up to a high position in the PR world, who never made a media call and never plans to! Thank you, Mr. Headhunter, for this gem.

So why did this irk me?

I cut my teeth early in my career developing deep relationships with media across key sectors like business and technology. I still have many media contacts and strong relationships with those individuals. I still pride myself on my media savviness and just recently pitched a story to a prominent Globe and Mail reporter which generated superb coverage for my client. Understanding media and the media landscape is essential to any PR professional, at every level of the organization. I’ll never be too senior to contact a journalist, write a release or, for that matter, make a pot of coffee.

Senior PR practitioners should never feel so self-important where they don’t need to make a media call or draft a press release? In my opinion, public relations is a professional “trade” just like carpentry, drywall or landscaping. The more you practise your craft, the more expert you’ll become as a practitioner. Moreover, the better you’ll service your clients and coach your staff.

We had a great discussion about this very topic on our Inside PR podcast (have a listen here). Oh, and for those senior PR flacks recently interviewed in Marketing Magazine who said they didn’t have to blog to understand the blogosphere … uh, think again, folks. Only by doing will you know how it works and how to advise your clients. For as long as we’re in the business and no matter how senior we are, we need to continually keep our skills sharp and learn something new each day. Because if our leaders can’t construct a decent sentence or they get tongue tied on the phone, how can we be role models and how can we teach the next generation of PR pros?

As for the bozo I hired and quickly fired three years ago, he went freelance and now he’s making media calls!

1 comment:

Erick Bauer said...

I recently had an interesting discussion with some friends about “corner office entitlement”. Many aspiring PR professionals, it seems, share a common tendency to overlook the importance of “putting in time”. Albeit this may not be the norm, it is certainly a feeling shared by many young professionals – whether in PR or any other industry for that matter.

As a SVP, maybe Mr. Bozo should have thought twice about how his lackadaisical work habits were affecting those around him; particularly those young PR professionals who willingly spend their hours slogging away in an attempt to move up the corporate ladder.

While many of us ARE willing to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty, this kind of laissez-faire management certainly makes the process seem all the more frustrating. It’s no wonder that many young “gen-xer’s” are frustrated with the prospect of toiling away in monotony while those above them are unwilling to put in the effort themselves.

Bottom line: if you’re not willing to do your job and do it well, chances are there’s a young PR professional out there who would be more then happy to do it for you.