The BLACK paPR Report

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PR from an African American Perspective

Colleague to Colleague

I’m feeling less than creative today, which could the result of clearing up all of my clutter. This week’s Colleague to Colleague is just a primer about the “father of PR” Edward Bernays. We need to be reminded of our history every now and then, huh?

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Filed under: Colleague to Colleague, , ,

Only on TV

Will the real publicists and PR practitioners please stand up?

This past week I was asked a question that stumped me: What don’t you like about your job? I’m not generally asked that question. I do, however, always discuss with a close colleague the things I don’t like about being a PR practitioner and publicist (you know those are two different professions, right?). 

My answer:

  • The “hurry up and wait” aspect of pitching stories and waiting for bites from editors, producers and journalists
  • The fact that I often have to explain, justify and instruct on what I do as I do what I do to people who pay me but who really don’t know much about publicity and PR 
  • The rejection. I don’t like it when an editor, journalist or producer passes on my pitches for my clients; I take it personally and it sucks

I need a drum roll here. 

There is something else that bugs the living daylights out of me and that would be the scores of people who have watched reality TV one time too many and truly believe that the life of a publicist and PR practitioner is glamorous and easy. They think it is so glamorous and easy, I believe they literally wake up one day and decide, “That’s it. I’m going to be a publicist!” and then they buy the business cards (passe) and stationery, and get a Web site. Those folks are the bane of my existence and an insult to the profession. And they make me wish I’d become a brain surgeon for all of the studen loan debt I’ve incurred. 

BAM!

Essentially, they just play a publicist on TV. No passion. No studying. No background or previous experience of worth. No aptitude. Nothing.

Look,  I’m not a hater, but I don’t like ineptitude of any kind – in any profession. But I hate illusions more and that’s because those of us who were born to do it and who slave to do what we love — have to clean up the messes of those who only play a publicist on TV. 

Such is my rant.

But here’s another example that probably makes more sense and is easier to digest. Some years ago, I met Kevin, a nice guy who dated a friend. Kevin’s dad was a physician at a local hospital. Now you would think Kevin had had conversations with his father about the man’s career path, maybe even his schooling. Nope. Kevin thought by applying for a job as an orderly at the hospital, he could be like his dad and work his way up to a doctor’s job. I asked him if he thought about college and then medical school and he told me no. And to suggest that most physicians go through undergraduate school and then medical school, an internship and residency was lost on deaf ears. Enough said.

I love my colleagues who make PR and publicity look easy. That’s a gift. However, I don’t like the “colleagues” who think PR and publicity are so easy, you can wake up one morning and just be a publicist or PR practitioner without knowing anything about the profession(s). 

There have been tons of times when I’ve said something to one of the publicists/practitioners who only play one on TV, and they’ve looked totally lost. I asked a colleague, ‘Is it me? Or, is this person perpetrating?’ She said, “Perpetrating.” So to assist me with this blog post I called my colleague to come up with some legitimate ways to discern a real publicist/PR practitioner from one who only plays one on TV.

  • Publicists/practitioners speak a special language. It’s the language of our trades and we speak it without thinking and to anyone, like everyone understands. We can’t help it. 
  • The good publicists are secure and share about their clients, share resources and contacts with other publicists. They are not tight-lipped.
  • A real/good publicist never has to buy her/his placements, they know how to pitch. Bad ones sell their clients based on their email distribution lists and call it guaranteed publicity. They will prey on people who don’t know anything about publicity. They don’t know how to write a press release or get real interviews. Can’t put together a press kit, but can buy an ad. They are really promoters not publicists.
  • If they don’t know the difference between PR and publicity, then there’s a good chance they are only playing a publicist or practitioner on TV.

Best, Robin

robin@thejstandard.com

Filed under: African Americans, PR Standards & Practices, Public Relations, The Business of PR & Publicity, Uncategorized, , , ,

Contagious

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Patrice Hale's YouTube page

Social media PR is indeed hot, but it’s proving to be the wave of the future in PR and publicity practices. It’s as simple as connecting the dots between various computer technologies and social networking forums.

However, I won’t oversimplify it in this space, but I will share that I’m incredibly impressed with the way some celebrities and even businesses are using social media to build brand loyalty and followings.

One of the most impressive uses of social media use was during the presidential campaign process by Barack Obama’s campaign. Brilliantly, they engaged (a primary rule of social media) a legion of voters and supporters by sharing (a primary purpose of social media) information on social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace. Moreover, they utilized their own Web site in a manner that included live streaming video (Ustream), events pages and blogging space for supporters. And the most talked about use of social media was the 3 a.m. cell phone text message announcing Barack Obama’s choice for vice-president.  

Barack Obama Campaign Twitter Page (note the followers/following)

Barack Obama Campaign Twitter Page (note the followers/following)

 

Celebrities such as CSI: NY’s Hill Harper utilized social media to promote voter literacy and rights, as well as to record video messages urging people to vote.

I had an opportunity to talk to Jason McCall, a special director for the Obama campaign, whose job it was to recruit celebrities to not only support the now president-elect but to also use social media to promote voter registration and voting. Here is a sample of his projects for Vote for Change

Lately, I’ve seen some really interesting projects on Facebook using the virality of social networking while engaging “friends” in a meaningful dialogue. 

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Terri Vaughn

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Royale Watkins

Actress, producer Terri Vaughn’s use of vlogging or video blogging is absolutely brilliant. Terri is transparent and she actually engages by talking directly to her viewers about life as a black actress in Hollywood, motherhood and about future projects. You can find my favorite vlog by Terri here.  Actor-comedian Royale Watkins produces a vlog, My Life Online, which is also smart and incredibly funny. What I love about Royale’s vlog is that while he’s funny he taps into serious subjects and gives us another side of a comedian’s life.  It’s rare to see a comedian in a multidimensional way, My Life Online is indeed a multidimensional view of Royale. I love smart anything and these vlogs are truly smart in terms of engaging fans/supporters, attracting fans/supporters, and my favorite thing of all – bringing the publicity. Of course, they are also useful for career transitioning and image change. According to the hundreds of comments Terri and Royale receive, their vlogs also help them appear “real” to people. In later editions of my report I will discuss what happens when a vlog goes wrong, really wrong.  

Patrice Hale, a Facebook friend is also attracting a lot of hits to her page as well as friends and supporters. Miss Hale, a screenwriter, who possesses the charisma of a Sherri Shepard and the wit and intelligence of a scholar. Yes, she’s that smart but she’s incredibly funny tackling a serious topic (again one of my favorites) – the lack of black images on broadcast/cable prime-time shows. Here’s Patrice’s infamous and viral vlog:

If there’s anything to learn from these projects it’s imperative that the relationship between the user and the producer of vlogs and other forms of social media is a two-way relationship. The hotness factor in the above was the openness of all to receive and acknowledge feedback, which in turn engages an exchange. It just doesn’t work when you talk at a user. 

Best, Robin

robin@thejstandard.com

 

 

 

Filed under: African Americans, Mass-Mediated Images, New Methods, Social Media, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Fee Transparency: Services from a Value Menu

“Long tagged an unquantifiable variable since their inception, public relations firms the world over have scrapped, bitten and clawed to justify their very existence. Many campaigns have launched products and people into the stratosphere. Untold scores, however, have fizzled during launch, or worse, never gotten off the ground. When that happens, it can be a budgetary nightmare of epic proportions.” —PR Firm Shakes Up Industry With Transparent Pricing

My first thought in reading the above paragraph was, ‘They’ve been hanging around in some low places.’ Most firms, especially small independent PR firms, only scrap, bite and claw to justify their existence and fees among people who do not value the worth of public relations and publicity. We spend a lot of time educating individuals on the legitimacy of public relations and publicity as smart business practices. [African American flacks have to prove that we’re not like Tommy on the Martin Show. Remember? “Tommy ain’t got no job.” Well, that’s how some people treat what we do and who we are as professionals. I digress…]

Budgetary nightmares of “epic proportions” generally are not the fault of PR campaigns. I won’t place blame in any one direction, but will charge everyone/everything from the visionary to the marketing plan to the public relations consultant or practitioner for not marking a winning strategy. You could even blame inexperience and inflexibility, but to blame a PR campaign is ludicrous.  If a campaign launches a person or product into the stratosphere, it’s most likely because the launch is not supported by a clear marketing mission aimed at a target or goal. Someone probably forgot to ask “What is the desired end result?”

Okay, rant finished. Time for the real fight.

Transparency in fees is not a new concept, but the company who put out that release would have an unsuspecting public believe that it is new. Most firms of any worth or value do not treat their fee schedules like the ordering board in a fast food restaurant. Most will do an assessment of the client’s stated needs against their marketing plan and then prescribe a public relations and/or publicity plan that is not only complimentary but cost-efficient. Cost-efficiency should also include the number of hours it takes to labor over a project as well as the worth and value of the labor or laborers.

To menu-ize (yep, I made that word up) services is to  minimize both the value of the client and their project as well as the value of the service and servant (practitioner). Of course, there are people who would run straight to the value menu but there are many others with more specific needs and they will labor with a practitioner to come up with the very best possible plan for their campaign with and without thought to cost. And a smart practitioner will ask almost immediately, “What is your budget?” leaving very little room for exploitation and a great deal of room for the client to decide if they will increase or decrease the budget amount after an outline of services is provided with a QUOTE.

You cannot be anymore vulnerable and transparent than when you hand over the quote. At that point, the ball is in the client’s court. 

There is no reason for a practitioner to play for their pay. The independent practitioner takes risks everyday with the retainer client alone. What is the impetus for that type of client-practitioner relationship? Honestly, there is none, and here’s why …

Public relations and publicity are cost centers that only enhance a marketing plan. That should be established up front with clients, so that there are no false expectations. Moreover, public relations and pubicity require the practitioner to lend their resources, intellectual capital and time to make clients look good, establish a presence and create opportunities for exposure on their behalves within a specific market.

“You wouldn’t go buy a car, clothes, a house, etc. that someone says might show up or might work. You buy these things because you can touch them and feel them. You know where your money is going. Public Relations firms should have the same respect for you, your business and your money. We do. That’s what sets us apart.” 

Someone needs to inform the writer of this quote that public relations is not a practice that has historically given anyone something tangible — something to touch or feel. Again, it is a cost center and as such it supports. If a practitioner promises something you can touch or feel, then something is wrong. If a practitioner is truly respectful, then they will (1) make an assessment based on the client’s stated needs and desired goals, (2) create an outline of services matching the stated needs and (3) offer a fair quote for their labor. And they will not promise something they cannot deliver let alone a one-size fits all PR/publicity plan, which is incredibly disrespectful to the client and the profession.

The things that should set a PR firmapart are quality of work and integrity.

Dang, who would have thought I’d live to see a day when PR needs a publicist?

Best, Robin Caldwell

robin@thejstandard.com

Filed under: African Americans, Client Relations, Ethics, Fees and Rates, Help for the Practitioner, PR Standards & Practices, Public Relations, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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