Home > PR and social media > PR Needs Better PR

PR Needs Better PR

January 25, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Don’t pay attention to the agency behind the curtain 

For years I’ve wondered why PR people and agencies are not better at *marketing* themselves, so recently I started asking some friends (new and old) about the issue of PR and self promotion. Very quickly a few things became clear. First, just about everyone agrees that PR folks aren’t very good at promoting themselves, but there is little agreement as to why and much to my surprise many folks don’t even think PR needed to get better at it.

Having been in PR – mostly on the agency side – I’ve heard the question asked a lot and in several different forms:

Why are PR people so bad at promoting themselves?

Why are people in comms so bad at communication their achievements?

Why are marketing people so bad at self-marketing?

Human Nature: It seriously wasn’t until I typed the above questions that I realized that maybe – just maybe – the answer can be found in the question’s common denominator of ‘people.’ Is it just human nature? Think about it, we all know carpenters that live in fixer-uppers; dentists with bad teeth; lawyers that get sued; general practitioners that are overweight smokers; and just try to find a hairdresser that don’t have over-processed hair.



PR Not Core to Business: Some suggest that PR agencies only need PR when they are trying to win new business. Umm, (sorry Tony) no. PR is intended to help win business, but that doesn’t mean it is only used in sales presentations. Saying PR shouldn’t utilize ongoing marketing is kind of like saying that financial planners shouldn’t have an investment portfolio or even a savings account.



Don’t Pay Attention to the Agency Behind the Curtain: Another interesting point of view (thanks Josh) is that PR (like lawyers) should be behind the scenes and not self-promotion machines. I certainly think there is some merit to this, but the bottom line is that…well, there IS a bottom line. PR for most of us is a business and businesses do benefit from some level of marketing.



Social Media Changing the Question: While spending time talking and writing about this issue, I realized that actually PR agencies ARE starting to invest (time as well as money) in marketing. There has been a ton written about how social media is changing PR, but most of that discussion has been regarding how existing PR campaigns need to integrate social media into campaigns. I’ve always maintained that (for many industries) social media is just another tool like the press release, the byline or the proactive pitch, but where social media is changing the PR industry is that it is making it a more vocal and visible community.



Community Building: Many PR agencies now have blogs and (agency and personal) Twitter accounts. This is helping to market PR and PR agencies, but it is also helping to build a more visible PR community. Don’t get me wrong, the industry has always had an active vocal minority of networkers, but those networks were always local and favored the few loud voices – which is no way to build a community. But with PRs use of blogs and Twitter reaching a tipping point, it is time to build a truly interactive PR community.

So as it turns out, after years of wondering why PR agencies don’t invest in marketing it looks the entire issue has changed right before my eyes. Okay, it’s been happening for a few years, but you get the point.


So new question, why aren’t PR professionals and agencies doing a better job at building a community, sharing ideas, pushing for standards and agreed upon code of ethics? Anyone? If this is already happing in a substantial way and I’ve missed it, please let me know.


*Notes, for this post, marketing and PR are used interchangeably because I refuse to us PR as a verb. Wizard of Oz photo stolen from random website. P.S. I hate the movie.


  1. January 29, 2010 at 6:22 am

    Via Twitter 6:19pm, Jan 26
    @PaulRobertspar interesting Blog, but I’d rather promote my clients than myself. When you promote your clients, it comes back on you.

  2. January 29, 2010 at 6:23 am

    Via Twitter 9:50pm, Jan 24
    @PaulRobertspar – A nice piece of reflexive writing.

  3. Jules Zunich
    January 29, 2010 at 6:25 am

    Via Twitter 7:44pm, Jan 24
    @PaulRobertspar ~ Re. blog PR ppl. spend time “educating clients” rather than promoting, but that may need to change!

  4. January 30, 2010 at 6:46 am

    Via Twitter at 9:51pm Jan 28
    @paulrobertspar – Don’t see the issue as “not core to the business.” Believe most agencies don’t apply the same discipline as a client prog.

  5. January 31, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Good post.

    I think the big answer lies in why people hire agencies: it’s a dispassionate third party who can see you from the outside and offer sound counsel. The trouble is that PR agencies won’t ‘eat their own dogfood’ and hire an external agent to do it, because that would mean going to the competition. (Some more enlightened ones will use freelancers, of course)

    Also busy-ness – very few count themselves as a client. (In the early days of Bite, where I worked at the time, there was a consultant with this role, and we had great profile.)
    And if you’re seen to be promoting yourself when a client is having a quiet patch, it could be inflammatory.

    Fear – if they raise the profile of their consultants, they may be poached.

    And last but not least, the bodies that should be promoting the PR industry aren’t doing the best job ever. We have a lousy reputation, when there are an awful lot of really good, ethical practitioners.

  6. February 1, 2010 at 12:27 am

    Via Twitter @10:42 am Jan 25

    @PaulRobertspar RE: http://ow.ly/ZYNF – What differs successful social media is that ‘buzz’ is created by the users… not the PR guys

  7. February 1, 2010 at 12:32 am

    4:36 pm Jan 30
    Why PR People Aren’t Good At Self-Promotion via @PaulRobertspar http://ow.ly/ZYU6 (Actually I know many who do it well.) #pr

  8. February 1, 2010 at 12:36 am

    Via Twitter 2:58 pm Jan 30
    Interesting: Shoemakers children have no shoes? RT @PaulRobertspar: why #PR people aren’t better at self promo http://ow.ly/ZYU6

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