Money down the drain

A business editor on a regional newspaper once wrote that the correct relationship between a journalist and a PR person was “that of a dog and a lamppost”.

I tried to explain this to a roomful of horrified PR people by saying he was probably plagued by telephone calls from PR firms asking if he had received their totally useless and irrelevant press releases.

OK, this doesn’t excuse his extreme offensiveness, but  at the time my  memory of being on the receiving end of bad PR was still fresh and raw.

That was nearly 20 years ago, and given the rise in public relations degree courses since then one might have expected things to have improved.  Not so, says Simon English, City commentator in the London Evening Standard, who  speculated recently about how much Britain spent on public relations from City PR firms.

“I do know this,” he said. “Much of it achieves nothing beyond irritation and the time lost on both sides is, like executive pay, only increasing. You’d be inclined to say that much of what passes for PR is money down the drain, except that’s harsh on drains.”

In his experience, “the number of  useless phone calls and emails from folk who don’t seem to read anything whatsoever before they speak is  rising exponentially”.

This damning indictment may not be as succinct as the dog and lamppost analogy, and it is only marginally less insulting. Still, Simon English’s conclusion would do very nicely as a sales pitch for PR firms like Deep South Media that employ experienced journalists and specialise in media relations.

“It has probably never been more important for companies large and small to have coherent spokespeople who understand the press  and the business for which they speak…” he wrote.

Quite so.

– GARETH WEEKES, Deep South Media Ltd.