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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.