The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations is the University of Alabama’s PR school, focused allegedly bettering the PR industry. Every two years (I don’t know why) they put out a report card on the PR Industry’s performance (read: a very big survey), which then invariably causes PR people to get mad at anything even remotely critical. This year’s report card gives communication leaders a C+, which caused the whiny babies at PRDaily to have a very civilized tantrum, questioning the co-author of the study and professor emeritus at the University of Alabama Dr. Bruce Berger about why all the grades aren’t A+, and how he could be so mean.
The study is good because A) it annoyed PR Daily, and B) it actually presents things based on a survey without attempting to make the PR people feel better. The study highlights the basics of what every PR person who hasn’t succeeded in their industry by not getting fired for 10 years – that the top leaders are very engaged with their jobs – the top crop of leaders are very engaged, as they have reached the point in their jobs where they can take the credit but outsource the work, and those below them are becoming increasingly less satisfied.
“Engaged employees give greater discretionary effort, work with passion and feel strongly connected with their organization. Not engaged employees do the minimum, just enough to get by. They show up, go through the motions, but bring no energy or passion to the workplace. Actively disengaged employees can harm or weaken their organization. They act out their unhappiness or resentment on the job and adversely influence others—they can undercut organizational programs and goals.”
The Plank Center Report Card, 2019
This absolutely sounds like 95% of PR people I’ve met in their first five years.
PR Daily also called out a particularly damning part of the report – that women aren’t involved enough in strategic thinking and decision-making – and immediately decided to move on to ask why scores in general aren’t improving:
Women’s perceptions of shared power in decision-making, two-way communication, and the valuing of their opinions differed significantly as reflected in trust in the organization, culture and engagement issues. Women said they want more involvement in strategic decision-making, they want their opinions to count for more, and they want a communication system that places greater emphasis on two-way communication.
The Plank Center Report Card, 2019
Maybe it’s because the PR industry has a massive issue with sexism! Quartz wrote a great piece in 2016 about how women dominate the PR industry, but the men are leading the agencies. I realize I’m a white man that runs a PR firm, talking about a problem about men running PR firms – the truth is, there is an ongoing issue of how women are treated extremely poorly in PR, and a large part of it goes to PR’s total inability to critique itself. Just take a look at PRWeek’s awesome 2017 panel of men, at a conference about women in PR, where Lord of Castle Greyskull himself Richard Edelman said that women should “speak up more loudly,” two months after Edelman themselves put out a blog about combating casual sexism. There is a power imbalance. It must be discussed and challenged.
Funnily enough, Dr. Berger actually said:
“Ego is what gets in the way,” says Berger. “There are some leaders who do not want to hear complaints and do not want to hear criticism.” The second-most-common barrier to self-reflection was time.
PRDaily, “Why are they all being so mean to us in their report cards :(” October 2019
PRDaily then proceeded to move on from any kind of consideration of this subject and simply continues to say exactly what was said to them. I mean, it’s not like one of, if not the most popular PR website should have any kind of self-reflection? Right?
I mean, the fact that PRDaily can publish the following with a straight face is almost admirably
Why aren’t the scores improving? Again, Berger cites the difficulty in transitioning from recognizing you have a problem to doing something about it.
The piece, which features a moody-looking woman holding up a test graded “C” (guess they couldn’t photoshop it to C+, but whatever), which is exactly what you should expect from PR people – a deep, childish sigh that someone would dare attack them.
As an industry, we should be extremely worried that one of the easiest jobs in the world has dwindling engagement numbers. Maybe it’s because we’ve created a culture of pumping up our own work, and tolerated decades of managers that believe management is “I will make you do my work and then I will take credit for it.” Satisfaction is declining year over year – men are nearly 9% more satisfied than women by their job – and nearly half of all PR people in non-leadership roles are neutral or dissatisfied with their jobs.
The industry’s lack of reaction to this report – created by an actual school of PR founded in the name of someone who actually did work at their job (which I understand is an affront to all that middle management in PR stands for) – is proof that it’ll get swept under the rug again. Great stuff, everyone!
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