Wednesday, September 22, 2010

'VP' does not equal 'PR'

We teach that public relations is a management function. That means a lot of things. But among them is the fact that someone with PR education, savvy, knowledge and experience should be counseling the executive suite. In other words, just because you have CEO or VP behind your name doesn't mean you understand PR.

While media relations is only one aspect of PR these days, it's in that arena that I heard of an example yesterday that illustrates my point. A local business reporter with more than two decades of experience forwarded an email to me and said he had never encountered anything like this before. (I have, actually).

A story had run in this reporter's paper, and a VP emailed him to say thanks but to suggest changes for the online version. I'll let you see it for yourself (with names redacted to protect the ridiculous from further embarrassment):

Thanks again for your interest in and coverage of the ### announcement. In skimming the story today, we noted a couple of quotes by ### that are not as clean and clear as he typically delivers. I¹m wondering if you can clean up the online version a bit?
The person then goes on to restate "current" and "proposed" quotes from said executive.

Making matters worse, the "proposed" statements were not any more "clean and clear."

What is particularly "unclean" is when people try to dictate exact wording to reporters, as if they were employees, as if there were no such thing as journalistic integrity. What is clear to me is that for all the brilliance in the executive suite, there is a colossal misunderstanding of media, communications, human relationships, public perception and the variety of publics and the ways they interact with your organization.

If this organization could not have proactively had its message points clear on the subject, there were better ways to handle it after the fact. As one example, why not link to the article on the organization's Twitter, Facebook and other social media/online vehicles and offer additional commentary there? The VP and CEO could even have direct conversations with their publics--what a concept.

It's clear that media training, speechwriting, communications counsel and social media alternatives--the expertise of PR professionals--will continue to be necessary. I just hope they will be in increasing demand from the C-suite. It would be nice to see more people with PR in their veins having VP behind their names.


Anonymous said...

Does the VP who made this comment to the reporter have an in-house PR function?
Anne Veltema

Tim Penning, APR said...

I don't know if she has PR as part of his/her function, if there is a PR person in house, or an agency that was not consulted.

I did talk to someone from an agency yesterday who says this sort of thing happens a lot and is extraordinarily frustrating. Journalists should know how often PR people prevent this from happening.