Your “Years Of Experience” Are Meaningless


Hello, you! I hear that you have 25 years of experience in the communications field, and have worked with the Fortune 500. I myself have put on my own website that I have a certain amount of experience, and that I have worked with the Fortune 500, the Fortune 100, hell, I am the Fortune 500 now. I have become one with them, I am a rat king of Fortune companies, rolling around consuming matter both edible and otherwise.

In all seriousness, though, nobody cares. Sure, there’s the immediate gut-check of “have they done stuff before,” but for the most part if you’ve encountered any PR manager or CEO who’s tried to order you around, they’ve brought up how many years they’ve been doing their job. They have said that they have 30 years in PR, doing corporate communications, and that as a result your thoughts are both invalid and stupid.

Your years in PR are apparently what give you the ability to do your job, not your actual achievements or things you’ve done with your own hands.

This rant bubbled up in my skull because I was recently forced to read posts from the Public Relations Society of America’s recent banning of a member from said forum for asking very clear-cut questions about things like “why do we say we are making money when we are losing money” and “why do we hide who is doing the financial audits” and “why have we not had a new CEO in 18 months.”

The forum posts, which I won’t share because they are private and every one of the whiny babies who likes to post about how much they love public relations would go completely insane if I did, are mostly people repeatedly saying that Mary is being mean, and also how many years of experience they have, and how many years they’ve all sat around talking about how good PR is in their PR group for PR people.

Note, if this comes off as a petty grievance – it is! This is my website, not your website.

For the most part, I realize that people need to justify their existence through whatever things they believe to be valid. It’s a tough world out there, and we’ve all got things we hang on to when we’re feeling a lack of self confidence. But PR people have this insane attachment to how many years they’ve managed to not get fired, or how many years they’ve managed to stick around in a field where the barrier to entry is having an email account.

I want you to take a minute to think about any time in your life that you’ve told someone you’ve had X years of experience in something as part of an argument or management situation. If you’ve said it in a pitch for new business, fine, we all do that, but if you’ve said it in a conversation to justify your argument, it’s invalid and stupid. I have known many, many communicators that in two years of time in PR have more experience than someone who has 15 years of micromanaging and making 22-year-olds cry because they messed up the bullet points on an agenda.

In fact, I’d argue that if you have 15-25 years in marketing or PR, there’s a decent chance that you have inverse experience depending on what you’ve done with your career. If you’ve done the thing that many PR people do – found an agency, hire 15 people, distance yourself from the work, or perhaps move in-house somewhere with a big time and an agency – you’ve probably put yourself in a position of “management” that’s divorced from the actual practice of marketing or public relations. If you’ve done that, every year that you choose to not do the actual job and choose to just do “strategy” is kind of like thinking that you’re going to lose weight by spending hours planning workouts that someone else will do.

This is an issue with corporate America as a whole, but nowhere is it more obvious that it’s a problem than in marketing and PR.

I’ll be writing more about the big problems with the PRSA soon, but for now that’s all I got. I couldn’t work out a featured image for the post so I put a picture of Jim Carrey as the mask. Smockin’!

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