Will PR Week be better online?

Yesterday PR Week (US) did a short interview with me for their upcoming feature on digital. They’d already done a longer phone interview. This interview was done to camera (a digital video camera). I have to applaud them for immediately embracing the new format for the publication. That said, it got me thinking about whether the new format will make the publication better or worse. It certainly has the opportunity to make the publication better. A richer set of content and more community building tools could make the publication a lot better. But what will really make the publication better is the content. By that I mean the conversations they start and pursue; and the insight and perspective they share from their unique position. If they get this right the community will engage and the publication will grow in stature. I’m sure we all have views on what that content may be and I hope we all take time to share our ideas with PR Week. We will all benefit from a strong trade publication but if we leave it to Haymarket, the publication has a far tougher task than if we all make the effort to share our feedback and offer suggestions on ways to make the publication better. Julia Hood has a lot on her plate right now as she guides the publication through this transition AND searches for a new editor. The more constructive we can be in our help, the easier her task and the better the industry will be.

PR Week doesn’t make the industry better

The poll I ran on this blog, while hardly scientific and hardly shocking shows that most of you don’t think PR Week makes the industry better (38% said it makes it better versus 61% who said it doesn’t – I have no idea what the other 1% think). At a time when the industry needs help this is rather disturbing. PR Week does have some rivals in terms of trade press but it is the most visible and the best funded. The publication will be changing soon as a new editor comes in. One assumes that Julia Hood, who oversees the publication will use the change in editor to also change its direction. I for one would love to see the publication focus more on giving the industry an insight into trends in PR and what products and services clients are demanding and for it to worry less about telling us who won what account. While the latter is interesting it does little to advance the state of PR. Now some of this would require the publication to invest in proper research and give reporters time to write truly insightful features on say the impact of social media in a downturn for consumer companies.

I appreciate that what I’d like to read about in PR Week may not suit all the readers but I think the publication should start by asking itself some pretty basic questions such as: what role should PR play in business in the next five years and how different is that from the role it plays today? From answers to this and other questions it could then look at what needs to be done to help the industry get there. This needn’t result in the publication simply being a cheerleader. It can still be critical and indeed it should be critical where the industry doesn’t evolve as it should. What is clear though is that the publication needs to develop a clear voice on certain key issues, issues that are central to the future of the industry. Being a spectator may be fun but it does little to really help. At the end of the day PR Week is a part of the industry and holds a position that should enable it to help lead the industry forward. I’d love to see it take up that position because if it does it will benefit the whole industry and may even make itself a bit more money along the way.

40 under 40

I was pleased to read that our very own Clive Armitage, the CEO at Bite, made the PR Week 40 under 40. The list makes interesting reading. Out of the 40, 23 are from agencies – does this mean you are more likely to be successful in PR at an agency or just that PR Week has a better chance of hearing about you when you work at an agency? The fact that did surprise me in this list was that only 13 are women. In an industry that seems dominated by women that seems to go against the obvious logic. Sadly what it seems to suggest is that while women make up the majority of people in the industry, men still seem to have control of most of the top jobs. Anyway, congratulations to all of you that made the list and especially you Clive.

PS I need to have a word with PR Week about the photo they used as it’s about 10 years old!

Spin Bunny – gone again?

Is it me or has Spin Bunny gone again? If it has it has nothing to do with the post on my blog. Maybe it was Mr Lewis who took offense?

PR Week’s Agency Excellence Survey

Let me start by saying that any piece with such a grand title sets a high bar for itself. You can guess by that first sentence that I don’t feel the piece reached it. Far from it, this piece seems like a great way of handing out medals to the establishment and does little to see where the real excellence in our industry lies. The feature is a good idea in theory but the results should tell you that there’s a flaw in the process. The tables show that the larger agencies (which have the most clients) win. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is the most likely statistical outcome; especially if you determine that you are only going to include those with a large enough sample size. Indeed the article even points out that the sample size is consistent with the agency size. Put another way, this research tells us that the big agencies have lots of clients and the small ones don’t. It doesn’t really tell us much more, other than they have reasonably happy clients. Indeed all it really says is which of the large agencies has the happiest clients. So if I dislike this article’s approach what would I propose instead? I think the first thing I’d do is to work with an organization like the Council of PR and agree on what constitutes excellence. I’d then publish this and get debate going around that definition BEFORE attempts are made to measure people against it. Once there is a broadly agreed standard, I’d then conduct the survey BUT I’d do it in a way where samples were limited so that each agency was given say 20 clients that worked with them (this is where a real researcher will tell you what sample size is needed to draw meaningful conclusions). If you give the larger agencies as many clients as they have they will frankly always come out on top – the law of averages just says so.

I guess I applaud PR Week for taking on this topic but in the next twelve months (assuming they run the same feature next year) we need to come up with a better approach than was taken this year. That’s a challenge for the industry not just PR Week.

And the award goes to…

It’s that time of year when children get excited about the holidays and the judges gather in New York to try and figure out who is going to win the much coveted PR Week Awards. For the second time now I’m one of those judges and for the second time I have to trawl through a huge binder full of submissions. It is a tough job – not least because of the volume of submissions. It reminds me how an editor must feel when he gets a mountain of press releases to read to see if any is worthy of a news item.

Let me be very clear. There are some great pieces of work covered in the entries. Sadly when you have a binder full to read it’s hard to make sure you give all the entries the attention they probably deserve. Instead you start to develop a system, whereby you look to make sure everyone has included basic items like measurement. Sadly even some of the good campaigns seem not to have covered such a basic item properly. I also looked to see if anyone actually took the trouble to justify why they chose the strategies and tactics they selected. Again most seemed not to bother. Using these and a few other criteria I was able to select my top two or three entries. While my approach to the task was solid enough, I would say that I’d really encourage people entering these awards to try and put themselves in the shoes of the judges before they even bother to start writing the entry. I couldn’t help be reminded when reading some entries of resumes I’d seen over the years from people who clearly didn’t know what the job was but had applied all the same just in case.

I would like to say that judging the entries was fun. It wasn’t. People had crammed so much content onto two sides of paper it took an age to read them all and ‘entry fatigue’ was definitely setting in by the last few in the pile. So next year when it’s award time again, give a little thought to the poor judges and try and think of what would help you give the submission a high score if you were a judge.

Of course I can’t reveal what category I’m judging or who my chosen few were. That said I’m one of several judges for the category so my votes my end up being irrelevant anyway. All will be revealed when the awards are made in March. Let’s just hope the other judges stayed the course and managed to get through all those entries. After all, buried in that pile of entries are some good campaigns that truly do deserve awards.