Home > PR and social media > PR Needs More Diversity

PR Needs More Diversity


No, not diversity in gender, or race or even political views, I mean we need more corporate PR folks involved in the conversation.

Over the past several months I’ve met some very smart PR professionals and have had some very interesting conversations via blogs and Twitter. But something was missing from the conversation. In real life you can’t get a bunch of (experienced) PR people together without eventually having the conversation turn to which delivers more value PR agencies or in-house PR departments.

There are two potential answers for this lack of agency vs in-house discussion:

  • Agency vs in-house is a taboo subject that people are afraid to talk about. Not likely.
  • There simply are not enough dissenting opinions for a dialog. This gets my vote.

Taboo subject: While I don’t think it is a taboo subject, I do understand how taking a position either way can be seen as…shall we say career limiting. It is easy to understand that no one wants to bad mouth the agency model in fear of applying for an agency job someday. And no one wants to go on record saying that in-house alone is best in fear of wanting or needed to hire an agency at their next in-house gig. But, are we afraid to talk about it? I personally don’t think so. I think it is like going to a NASCAR event wearing a “Left Turns R Cool” t-shirt. If no one disagrees it isn’t worth having the conversation. Which brings us to the more likely option.

No dissenting opinions: And a handful of agency ‘thought leaders’ have done a good job outlining the reasons for hiring an agency, but (in the spirt of baseball season) it is kind of like listening to 1000 Red Sox fans talking about who is best team in the American League East. As much as I hate to admit it, sometimes it takes a Yankee fan to add some diversity to the conversation. And likewise, PR needs some in-house PR practitioners to defend their craft or maybe some agency folks that are willing to step off the reservation.

Right now, only half the industry is being represented. While the conversations are interesting, one can’t help but wonder if we doing our clients and the industry as a whole a disservice by not discussing this topic more openly and with more dissenting opinions.

Maybe corporate PR folks are more involved (than I think) but they just just aren’t talking to me. Anything is possible, but I recently asked via Twitter for someone / anyone to point me to a list of internal PR people who blog or tweet and…insert cricket noise here. Nothing. If they are out there I hope the get more involved in the conversations.

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  1. Ronald Mina
    April 14, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Isn’t it possible that corporate PR folks enjoy less flexibility than agency PR folks? It seems logical to me that a company would would put more restrictions on blogging and tweeting activities of in-house folks, and be able to enforce those restrictions more easily than they would on their agencies. I think it’s not so much that they don’t want to become involved in the conversation, so much as they might be unable to become involved.

  2. April 15, 2010 at 2:52 am

    Thanks for taking the time to read, think and comment Ronald. I think everything you say is possible, but I’m not sure that it completely explains it enough for me. I’m just not sure that many organizations have policy against it.

    I’m still thinking that in-house PR folks just don’t want to talk to us. Whatever the reason it is too bad because if they are a large part of the industry.

  3. May 14, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Hi Paul

    Thanks for flagging up an interesting point.

    The magazine I work for (www.corpcommsmagazine.co.uk) is popular with both agency and in-house communicators. Every month we profile an in-house communicator, and we invite an in-house communicator to write a ‘personal view’ for us.

    On a personal note I haven’t found that many of our in-house readers on Twitter. However, here are two that are worth checking out:

    Georgina Wald @georginawald – corporate communications manager at Domino’s pizza, who responds personally to customers with queries;

    Dom Burch @dom_asdapr – head of corporate communications at Asda, also see @asda – he was the in-house communicator who was invited to speak yesterday at #BeingSocial (conference on social media) and he showed that Asda are a great of example of an organisation really trying to lift the lid on what they do and involve customers – and one of the ways they’re doing that is by getting out there on things like Twitter.

    But as you say, it would be great to see more in-house people getting involved.

  4. June 23, 2010 at 12:28 am

    Paul this is an interesting post. I got to your link after seeing your exchange via Twitter with L.A. Jones.

    I’m one of the in-house flacks for Vistaprint. Our whole team is active in the social space and we also manage the corporate PR account. Our Twitter handles are @jeffespo; @jaykeith & @ngoss.

    My take on the folks in-house being less involved in some areas is that many folks will not identify where they work, whether it is for reasons of communications or social media policies or just want to keep work and personal separate.

    Could also be some other factors in place due to many internal flacks dealing with the corporate Twitter account and other social profiles as the can be taxing as well.

    I would also argue that many agency folks are more honed into industry chats and news more than in-house due to the jockeying for clients and whatnot.

  5. June 23, 2010 at 12:40 am

    Hey Paul — Good topic. I think the divide cuts along the job description lines. There are fundamental differences in what’s required of PR pros in-house and agency-side. Agency people (and I’ve done most of my time in agencies) are natural networkers. They Tweet, Blog, post and comment as a way of establishing their own — or their agency’s leadership profiles. Internal PR people are more likely to work behind the scenes to raise their company exec’s profiles to prominence in social media conversations. At the same time, I’d venture to guess that most internal PR people (of which I am now one) spend no more than 60% of their time doing actual PR work.

    PS — Thanks to Sheli R. above for directing me to my old friend Georgie — knew her from her Fuller’s days. Beer and pizza — what a career combo!

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