Random PR Thoughts

“That is so five seconds ago!”

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There’s a post rocketing around Facebook from Ragan’s PR Daily (http://bit.ly/10ZgwEj) purporting to list the “ten signs you are an old-school PR pro.” As far as I can tell, it is being read and shared mainly by old-school PR pros. Anyway, I have reviewed the items on the list, and I would like to take issue with a few of them.

The list includes something that the post’s author obviously thinks is akin to using an abacus: Scheduling appointments on a Palm Pilot. Evidently, if you used to do such a quaint thing, you’re old.  This brought me up short because I don’t think of a Palm Pilot as being particularly old. I gave my last one up nine years ago when I got my first Blackberry. To me, nine years is a mere spasm of time but I suspect not to the author. The Palm Pilot is still within the bounds of recent memory. Had she said “Filofax,” I would have snickered appropriately but the Palm reference was merely ironic.

The list also includes “Editing press releases with a red pen.” While I know my way around the “Track Changes” function in Microsoft Word, my preference is to edit with a pen — don’t much care what color. That’s because I prefer to edit in the pantry near my office, where I can have a cup of coffee and work unmolested by electronic interference.

Another tactic deemed archaic by the author is “Conducting Press Tours — In Person!” Well, landogoshen, ain’t that a hoot? In person, ya say!

C’mon, my boss is not an avatar and neither is the reporter he met with yesterday. When did this become an “Insert Tab A into Slot B” business? It’s all about people — real people and relationships. Still and always.

Finally, the list impugns physical press kits with photos and business cards. I agree: This is absurdly old fashioned, but that’s what I like about it.

Okay, I admit it. I love to stuff press kits and miss the days when I did it on a regular basis.

Long after I had attained a title that innoculated me from such a menial task, you could still find me in a conference room, walking around and around, plucking this press release, that fact sheet, a product photo, a company brochure and sliding them neatly into a logo-festooned folder. Then I’d start the next one.

It’s not that I had any high-minded notions of there being dignity in any job well done (not that I would argue with that) but the act of circumnavigating a conference table and assembling the ingredients of a press kit is utterly mindless work. In this mindlessness, I often found inspiration.

Freed from the distractions of the phone and email, my mind could wander wherever it chose, and it often chose the place where my most vexing problems huddled together in darkness. What’s the big idea that will win that new account? How do we address the over-servicing problem on the Acme client? How come you can’t wear a yellow tie after Labor Day?

The press kit Maypole dance provided me with another big benefit: It was stress-free. Forty-five minutes of stuffing was, for me, better than a power nap. In fact, it amazes me that we squandered this task on our most junior staff. The overall mental health in most agencies and PR departments would be greatly improved if their leaders stuffed press kits twice a week.

So, do you really want to know how to tell if you are an old-school PR pro? Here’s how: Not much throws you for a loop because you’ve seen it before and you know how to fix it. And your boss knows it.

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Categories: Random PR Thoughts

14 replies »

  1. delightful as always, Chris. Your perambulations around the conference table are akin to my washing dishes –by hand (imagine!!!) — and the greater the pile the better. That is my gateway to mindlessness and relaxation, which of course is the best way to address those pesky huddling thoughts in the dark corners. And “old fashioned” is both a good drink and not such a bad thing to be either.

  2. I’m retired and never was an “old school PR pro” but some of my solutions to problems came to me while sitting on an old lawn tractor cutting my lawn. The mindlessness of menial work can create opportunities to solve real problems!

  3. I was perplexed about the one about conducting press tours in person being old school, too! I just did one last year, and it actually HAD to be in person, because it involved multiple forms of transportation (plane, train, boat, van) and conference rooms with presentations. And, you’re absolutely right — relationships are NEVER old school. It’s all about relationships. Always will be.

  4. This is the first time I’ve encountered you and I am so glad to be able to follow your blog. Your comments touched a chord in me. I, too, enjoyed the trek around the conference table stuffing kits. Now I empty the office dishwasher. And I am flabbergasted that so few face-to-face meetings take place. I’m teaching the young people in our agency that their work will be stronger and more satisfying if they get out of the office and sit down with clients, media, stakeholders. Thank you!

  5. I very much agree! It is all about the people and the relationship you build around them. Great comment Chris.

  6. Press tours (in the flesh) are so much more stressful, time-consuming, uncontrollable (missed flights), unpredictable (editor no-shows) and less push-button but far more satisfying when they come off well. I’m concerned that digital tech addiction is negatively affecting the “R” side of PR. Yeah travel is a hassle but nothing beats shaking hands and looking someone in the eye (or tipping one together) to establish a connection. The editorial people I met on tours in the 80’s and 90’s are still among my trusted professional acquaintances. We met in person on tours and at trade shows, swapped info and stayed connected all this time. I doubt that happens much with virtual communications media. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not dying to jump on a plane to Boston or NYC with one of my clients. 🙂

  7. Appreciate your post. I agree with you–a lot of those things like stuffing press kits could be relaxing when you need to let your thoughts settle for a bit. I also edit releases on paper from time to time. It’s not that all of those things are archaic, but are unfamiliar to today’s young PR professionals.

    The article sprang up out of discussions we’ve had in the office between veterans and the younger employees. As a veteran, I think it’s our duty to share some of our insights, and in this case, I was just poking fun at the differences of how we did things even just 15 years ago vs. how we do them now, and how much easier it is to get things done these days. I feel like I’m spinning old PR yarns when I talk about some of the things that were done before their time.

    Your last line nails it. We’ve seen it, we’ve done it, and we can roll with it. We’ve got to share that with the younger ones to help them develop.

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