This blog title has been in my drafts for just short of a year, last week I finally decided to write the content. It stayed in my drafts for another week before I’m finally picking up the courage to press send this lunchtime. I decided I couldn’t leave this unsaid any longer.
What Is ‘PR Bashing’, Anyway?
PR bashing is a term we’ve coined over the years which describes when users, usually (but not always) journalists, take to Twitter to share an email screenshot or something to that effect, usually joined up with the caption “PRs, don’t do this”. And if I’m to be fair, there are some embarrassing examples and we’re all guilty of joining in and laughing at some of the particularly funny ones. However, more than often recently, the callouts are totally unnecessary and seldom constructive.
The most recent incident was when journalist Paul Lewis took to Twitter to express that he categorically does not want PRs wishing him well. A pretty strange thing to complain about, but I digress.
And if you don’t think this happens all that often, please check out the replies to this tweet…
There was also another example not too long ago, when a journalist made a rather ambiguous complaint about PRs not being taught properly at university (side note: most PRs don’t study PR at university, but again, I digress). Then of course, refused to explain what the actual issue was, unless you paid her a fee.
Which naturally brings me to my first point of everything that is wrong with the PR bashing trend.
My Humble Thoughts On Why PR Bashing Is Problematic
It’s Rarely Constructive
I totally understand freedom of speech and whatnot, but my opinion is that if you’re going to be cruel, at least make it constructive. Instead of writing “I hate ALL PRS 😤” why not write “I hate all PRs because…”, at least then we might actually learn something from all of your wisdom into the practice of PR.
Damaging To Juniors
Speaking from experience, talking to journalists can be bloody scary. As an intern, a junior or even as an executive, receiving unkind replies to pitches, or if I’m to put it more matter-of-factly, being spoken to like shit, can be really harmful. It can be enough to make someone think they’re not cut out for the job, or give them certain hang ups about day to day tasks, such as speaking to journalists on the phone. Luckily I, and a lot of other PRs I know, are thick skinned. You have to be. Nevertheless, those who are learning shouldn’t be humiliated on account of honest errors. Or in the case of Paul Lewis’ complaint, not even making errors at all. This feels like a good time to say: “you never know what somebody is going through, so be kind.”
Can Encourage Nasty PR Behaviour
One thing I really dislike about PR bashing, is when PRs jump on it too. If it’s something totally embarrassing and where anyone would know better, then I do get it. Heck I’m even guilty of joining in myself when it’s something totally pathetic (like the time that a journalist got an email with the headline “F**K YOU” and then the body of the email went on to explain that was just to grab their attention – don’t do that). But this being said, most of the time, the comments are totally unnecessary. We all like to have a moan now and again, but we have to remember the damage that can be done to another person, and when PRs get involved too, it can feel like the whole world is against you.
There’s A Time And Place For Everything
I feel like I should end this blog by saying, that I get it. I do. We all enjoy a good groan every now and again. Journalists are under enormous pressure and it’s easy to get irritated in a job like that. However, I find it really unfair when these grumbles are put out in the public domain for everybody to weigh in on. Especially when they are clearly linked back to an individual or organisation. It’s embarrassing without need, and that goes for any industry, not just PR and journalism.
These are really difficult times for us all, and kindness goes a long way.
I’m lucky enough now to work in a job where I have great ongoing relationships with journalists. However, PR bashing does remain to be a very prevalent problem within this industry, especially in digital PR, and I think we an all take steps to do a little better. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (i’m sure you guys will).