Hello PR people. You are now deep into a quarantine. You can no longer go to an office and look busy. You can no longer.
Your lives have changed a lot – mine has not. You were born to go to offices and talk about television shows that everybody else is watching. You were built to make phone calls where your manager could see, and nod as you as a reporter says “please don’t call me.” You do not know how to do social media other than #using #hashtags, but you do know how to be a bright and breezy person that people think “is really nice.” You know how to do an agenda. You know how to seem, at a glance, like the busiest person alive.
But now you’re digital. Everything you do has to be something someone can actually look at. The amount of time something takes is no longer balanced against how much consternation you have. You can no longer tut at someone for leaving at 6pm, and stay until 9pm doing something and get told you’re working hard.
You forgot to go digital. You didn’t think you should actually learn to function as a normal human on Twitter. You created a generic persona that you thought was pleasant – an undefined person #who #uses #hashtags. Now you’re defined only by words. By posts.
You never really learned how to be a normal human online. You never adapted to being a normal person – or an interesting one- in real life, but that’s never been an issue. But when you’re a gestalt of your posts, being a boring automaton isn’t gonna work out well.
You are just learning to post. My friend, I have been posting my entire life. You posted carefully like you were dipping your toe in the water. I have been online this entire time, waiting for the day that a great equalisation would force you online. You cannot escape.
Welcome to my nightmare.
You see, this entire time – your entire career – you’ve leaned upon people remembering you as nice, or “strategic,” or other vague terms. You could say things like “our team got” when you mean someone else did work that you took credit for. Your approach to media relations – bolstered by years of the PR industry trying to tell you it’s okay to not be able to make relationships with reporters – has been mostly glancing, sterile and faked – a patchwork of communication that still worked because you had all these other things to point to.
You are now sat at a computer, at home, without the ability to look busy by taking phone calls all day, or typing very loudly, or looking at documents with deep consternation. If you’re a manager, you can no longer stroll over to your underlings and ask them the status on something – nobody sees you doing it, thus you’re not managing. Suddenly you’re going to be reduced to a sum of actual work you’ve actually done, such as documents, or emails sent. And guess what? Clients are gonna notice too. You can’t set that all-hands in-person meeting to salvage a client with a deck of stuff that you and I both know isn’t actually impressive, but god damn are you passionate, and god damn will the client understand when they see you do an approximation of Donald Draper. Except they won’t. You’re staying home. You’re reduced to a voice.
A voice without definition. A generic, bright, breezy voice with professional language, stuff that sounded great and got you high grades in college but on its own, without human contact, is boring as shit. You’ve buffed off any actual personality that may be out of the norm, hoping desperately to fit in with your industry or your colleagues or your clients. You have been led to believe that the right thing in a crowd of people that all look and sound the same is to look and sound exactly like that.
Me? I spent the last 23 years online. I’ve been working on how to not be boring in text form for a long time, and I have never had the ability or luxury of being able to fit in. When I started in PR, I didn’t want to call people, I didn’t want to talk to my colleagues, I didn’t want to email 500 words to people – I wanted to die! And so I chose the lifelines I had – talking to reporters in general because my industry was so insufferable. I spent years online talking to them, growing a following and never being afraid to be me, which means that reporters actually know me, and speak to me online.
Sure, I ignored going to events because I never saw the point at them, sure, I didn’t go to PRSA events, sure, I didn’t go out of the house that much at all, seeing more of a point in growing an actual digital presence that resembled me.
And now look at you. You’re lost. You’re afraid. You are scared. You are still saying that media relations doesn’t work.
No, it does. Join me. I shall lead you.
You Can Become The Joker
The reason that I succeed despite my many faults is because I am able to communicate cleanly in the written form. It’s time for you to throw off the shackles of the PR industry – it’s time for you to, as the Joker once said, introduce a little anarchy. upset the established order, and everything [will] become chaos. And, yes, I’m an agent of chaos. It’s time for you to realize that all of the things the PRSA and your agency CEOs told you are lies, lies to keep their jobs and keep you down.
It’s time to:
- Write pitches under 120 words.
- Actually read reporters’ stuff, and objectively understand subjects.
- Read around subjects.
- It’s time to get rid of 90% of the bullshit language you use in pitches. That means any and all stupid words like “exciting” or “revolutionary,” all insane roundabout ways of describing something, go out the window. Write like a normal person, directly, succinctly, get what you need to say out there and let it stand on its own merits.
- Not form pitch. Send 7 emails a day. Who cares. Make them good.
- Follow reporters and talk to them like an actual human being. Log onto Twitter, post whatever you feel like, have a good time out there, stop worrying that you don’t sound professional. Nobody who matters actually cares.
- Say “fuck” and “shit.” You can do it.
- Post normally, or abnormally. Be you.
- Focus on what actually matters in your job – like getting hits for your client – and stop lying to yourself that LinkedIn content strategy is a thing.
- Laugh in your manager’s face if they say to you that you need to ‘make a pitch more robust.
- It’s time for you to stop worrying about whether PR people like you. Seriously, a lot of this industry has been built upon people assuming that if PR people don’t like you, you’ll fail. Guess what, nobody has liked me my entire career, and I’ve done just fine.
- It’s time for you to rethink that PRSA membership. What have they done for you lately? Nothing, that’s what. They’re gonna do even less with your dues soon.
- It’s time to do things that actually matter. If you see your agency pushing some obscene content strategy because they can’t pitch, tell them to find a way to pitch instead. This entire virus thing isn’t a blocker to everything – it’s a challenge. It’s a challenge of your ability to communicate and your relationship development skills.
You can do this entire job without being in an office, and you can excel at it if you learn to be an actual human.
If you don’t, this COVID-19 situation, and any future emergencies, are going to steamroll you and your agency. Your ass will be grass. The world does not need bright and breezy. It does not need nice. It needs communicators. It needs posters. It needs Jokers.
So say it with me: