Where’s the value?

The pre-amble

I like reading Strumpette. I like reading Chris Clarke. And never the twain shall meet. Until now when they’ve met quite forcefully and drawn in Joe Thornley (who I also like reading).

Essentially the argument goes something like this (or at least I’ve interpreted it as such). Chris doesn’t have the experience to say anything worthwhile about the PR industry and JT should know better than to allow him to speak on the behalf (whether de facto or de jure) of the Thornley Fallis Group.

The bigger picture

I wish I had something intelligent and conciliatory to say for both sides but I don’t. My take on this particular liaison dangereux is that it raises a bigger question of where the value of young or up-and-coming PRs blogging is?

There are quite a few of us so this is somewhat of an existential question. Alex, Richard, Owen, Paull, Luke…I could go on but these guys are the one’s I make sure I read.

The rationale

The way the PR agency model is set up means there is a vast amount of knowledge and experience at the top, at AD level or above, but at the bottom, new recruits are treated like menial workers. For example, one Oxbridge grad I know spent his first year as part of the workforce advising clients on the management structure and IT needs of the company. Another earned 50k (gbp – about $100k U.S.) a year working in a hedge fund. Another spent his first year getting paper cuts from mounting coverage.

As a result, many junior staffers find their creativity and intellect stymied by the agency structure. Therefore they look for other ways to express themselves. Lo and behold, they found democratised publishing and social media (or it found them). So they started blogging.

Some decided to talk about technology, some pop culture, some about sport, while some decided to talk about public relations. The question is whether or not they have anything worthwile to say.

So where’s the value?

Public relations is not a hard business to be in. Write a news release, manage an event, spam some journalists. Sometimes we provide serious counsel but more often than not it’s very tactical stuff, which is reflected in PRs seat at the budget table.

Common sense

The most important asset for any PR is common sense – and it shows in the work we do. The beauty is, anyone bringing common sense to the table. Spam journalists this way, write a news release this way, organise your day this way. If you impart this sort of thinking with some amount of intellect behind your rationalisation, you’ll be adding value to your peers and to the industry.

Fresh eyes and attitude

Another thing that young PRs can bring to the table is a fresh view. Just because the industry has been doing certain things certain ways, doesn’t mean it should be so. A fresh pair of eyes can revitalise a news release, an industry or a company – just why my Oxbridge pal got paid so well to be a management consultant!

Us youngsters are also filled with a certain joie de vivre that makes us think we can change the world. This energy and attitude is in stark contrast to people burdened with years of experience and the cynicism that they bring, whove often stopped trying. Enthusiasm is a great motivation for everyone.

Ethics

The other way we can bring value is in the ethics column. As Team Strumpette said, Chris has been naive in some ways but it’s this naivety that can be harnessed. If fresh faced, bright eyed grads are naive in expecting good ethics in the industry, surely that benefits everyone? Just look at the work Paull Young has done around astro-turfing, even if it has stalled somewhat in the face of the bigger companies.

Intelligence

Just because we’re junior, doesn’t mean we don’t have the same, or greater, level of intelligence of our superiors. The only difference is by a fluke of timing, they have more experience. Experience that the Strumpette committee seems to be using as a crutch; both in their arguments and to hit young PR bloggers over the head with. In some cases older pros’ experience and cynicism can tessellate beautifully with our energy, intelligence and naivety to ensure great work is being done.

Questioning authority

We’re young, we’re mavericks, we have no respect for authority or experience. If we have an idea that’s better than yours, we want it executed and if not, we want to know why. If you tell us to do something this way, we’ll ask why we shouldn’t do it a different way. That’s just the way it is, the way it has been and the way it always will be. The precociousness of youth will always question the authority of the old (er). If you’re right, great. If we’re right, even better but don’t us to accept your take just for the sake of a few extra years.

Conclusion

Strumpette Inc actually has a lot more in common with the inexperienced PRs that they are criticising. Both entities should be dissenting voices in the community, both should be keeping the industry honest.

At best, we should be expecting the juniors to be asking “why” a lot more than we currently do. Just because someone like David Jones, Michael O’Connor Clarke, Joseph Jaffe or Shel Holtz serves up a gem of wisdom, doesn’t mean we should accept it. Prod it, probe it and question it – just like we’ve been doing on Second Life. Senior pros have been like zealots for the platform, not the concept and a small amount of people have stood up and disagreed.

Because that what Strumpette.com does, it forces us to question the status quo, something we should have been doing for a while.

It’s not about the conversation any more, it’s about the discussion.

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9 Responses to Where’s the value?

  1. Mish says:

    That’s a great post Ed. In regards to asking “why?” that is all of our jobs – regardless of age. As citizen journalists (regardless if you are in PR, Marketing, content creation or other)…the ‘why’ is always integral to understanding, shaping and moving forward. ;)

  2. David Jones says:

    I totally agree with your points about youth in PR and Strumpette forcing us to look at the status quo. Well put. However, I have to quibble with a point of fact: I’m pretty sure that I have never served up anything resembling a gem of wisdom. Can’t be certain…but I’m pretty confident the closest I’ve come is a cubic zirconia of an almost fully-formed thought.

  3. Ed Lee says:

    Mish – thanks for stopping by, it does seem as if i dipped into a rather existential question by accident but yes, we should all be looking to add something to our jobs, our blogs and life in general.

    Dr Jones – I apologise for grossly overestimating your talents. I suppose in your case, even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day…

  4. Owen Lystrup says:

    Great post, Ed.

    I think you captured us young ‘uns pretty well.

    Coincidentally, having been bitten by Strumpette quite a few times (I’m getting pretty used to it now), I’ve noticed he/they tend to revert to the almost obligatory ‘you’re just a kid’ attack.

    It comes standard.

    I think Strumpette does serve an important function here, though I definitely don’t always agree with his/their tactics, especially the sensational ad hominem attacks.

    And it’s fairly easy to criticize someone’s speaking for a company when one prevents his own speaking for even himself through anonymity.

    However, does that make Strumpette simply a piece of sensational PR ranting, or does it then become the critical voice of and against us all?

  5. Ed Lee says:

    Just about the whole “experience” thing. I can completely understand the whole anonymity thing when satirising an industry – it gives you the freedom to be critical to all without holding back on matters pertaining to your employers past, present and future.

    However, in this case, when criticising someone’s lack of experience it should be important to hold up one’s own experience as a benchmark.

    How else can we determine who’s argument is from the more legitmate source, and who holds the most authority in the space we’re talking about?

    The Strumpette Conglomerate provides a valuable function but in this case the anonymity works against them.

  6. Eden Spodek says:

    Great post Ed!

    To a certain extent, we’re all ambassadors of our employers, particularly, if we’re blogging about our professional opinions, lives and experiences. We’re human, not perfect and this is a time and medium for experimentation and learning.

    As for Joe, he’s one of the two primary ambassadors of his firm and conducts himself accordingly. As for his employees, as long as they aren’t contravening the company’s blogging policy, they should be free to express themselves openly. It only enhances the firm’s reputation. From a social media perspective it says, “They get it!” From a recruitment perspective, it’s a great way to attract young and/or new talent.

    Regardless of age, experience or stature, we should all question the status quo. Once we stop listening to – and learning from – others, we may as well pack up and go home. The blogosphere is and should be a level playing field where contributors are free to express their thoughts and comment on those of others. We should be wiling, open and accepting of new ideas, insights and points of view from people outside our regular circle of friends and business associates.

  7. Hi Ed,

    How do I generate a trackback to your blog? I can’t find a trackback URL.

  8. Ed Lee says:

    This little web app lets you post a trackback to anywhere from anywhere –

    http://brutalhugs.com/cgi-bin/tb/tb_nohost.cgi?__mode=send_form

  9. maggie fox says:

    Hey Ed (nice to meet you the other day, BTW!), good post. Personally, I have never understood the tendency to blast young people for their enthusiasm, bravery and sense of hope. It’s who you are, it’s what you do and have done since the beginning of time. Caution and control come with age and experience (and just as there’s nothing wrong with being young, there’s nothing wrong with being more experienced, either – there’s a need for both).

    Anyway – I never did see what was wrong with Chris’s comments. If he were a CEO – you bet I would. Junior PR guy? Anything else would seem phoney and weird. And the first rule of the blogosphere is, after all, “Be yourself”.

    Don’t let anyone try to bully you into anything else.

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