I heard a Chief Executive the other day providing some perfectly legitimate information about the performance of his business and then being derided by the business journalist interviewing him as providing ‘just a load of PR’. Unfair, I thought.
It’s funny how an industry – Public Relations – that devotes itself to managing the reputations of others, has such a shabby reputation itself. The media, the public, all demand greater transparency and access to information. But when it comes, that extra information is derided as ‘puff’ or manipulative PR.
It’s all good
Who’s to blame? Well, we all are to some extent. Hiding behind corporate and financial jargon doesn’t help. Who watched the BBC’s Twenty Twelve mocumentary on the Olympics and failed to recognise some element of truth in the ludicrous language pedalled by the team.
What to do about it? We could perhaps start by working with the spokespeople we work with and ‘rehearse’ to talk in a language that not only makes sense but is emotionally more engaging.
The Chief Executive of Ocado was also on Radio 4 talking about the performance of his business the other day. He undoubtedly had some good news to share but much of it was hidden behind phrases like: “there’s an enormous channel shift, we’re at an inflexion point in the market” or “customers who rely on us to deliver outstanding quality to their homes”. In both instances, I know what he means but I can almost hear the journalist sighing.
What about sharing an interesting delivery anecdote for instance, or some feedback from a customer? Don’t tell me the market is at an inflexion point, tell me about how many thousands of loaves of bread have been bought online in the last 12 months?
The point is, we can help people like the Chief Executives of the world relate what they do in a way that not only makes for better radio/TV/ or whatever channel you choose, but might actually do a great deal for stripping away the general cynicism that PR has attracted.
After all, really good PR shouldn’t sound like PR at all.