This is more a rant than anything else, but I do hope it raises some awareness about a specialized field that does, contrary to popular belief, require skills and training to do successfully.
I’ve spent my career working in communications–writing/editing, media relations, internal communications, public relations, event planning and marketing. I love what I do, and I realize that what I do is interesting to a lot of people. However, despite the fact that my field is largely a creative one, it does not mean that anyone can do it.
For some reason, everyone seems to think they’re capable marketers/PR people. People without marketing and/or PR training seem to think that none is required to do the job well, and so they spew their uninformed opinions at me (and others in my field–I’ve learned this is a shared pet peeve by people in the industry) and other decision-makers thinking that they’re about to make a huge and positive impact on the organization. That is almost never the case.
Words, tone, graphics–they all make a difference in effectively communicating. While press releases seem to be a simple collection of words on a page, they are actually carefully chosen; written and re-written by people who have been trained or have a knack for knowing what will draw media attention. And just because I might love something a graphic designer throws at me does not mean it will translate well to the group that is receiving it, and I have to be clever enough to know the difference.
While it may look to an outsider like I’m splashing about in a utopia of creativity, there is a method to the madness, and it’s not something any old person can just sit down and do.
For example, I recently had an arts group for a client and I worked meticulously to choose the right pieces of music to feature as teasers in the group’s marketing and PR materials. I chose pieces that I thought would play well with the target audience. I chose words for my press releases that I thought would make a reporter want to write about the concerts. All of my choices were based on my years of experience and knowledge. Audiences for the events averaged at about 900 people, which was great for this particular group.
I resigned from this client during the summer and was not replaced. Several members of the group’s board of directors tried to fill in for some of my activities. They didn’t pursue all of the outlets that I did, their announcements were poorly timed, and they chose the wrong words to feature. The first concert of this season was last night. It was a mix of music that included Broadway, film, jazz and blues music. Which words did they call out in the marketing/PR? “Jazz” and “blues.” Which words would I have called out? “Broadway” and “film.” This is simply because Broadway and movie music is far more popular with the target crowd than jazz and blues. How many people were at the concert? Probably 500 max. That’s not a bad number, but it’s a significant decrease in numbers from previous concerts, and this season is only beginning for the group.
I don’t avoid sending press releases on Fridays (unless it’s bad news!) because I like to take it easy at the end of the week–there’s a good reason for it, and it’s a reason people without PR experience don’t understand because they haven’t worked in the field.
I have a great friend that works in market research and it occurs to me that I should ask her if she experiences this same phenomenon–because hers is a more quantitative field, I wonder if as many people purport to be able to do it without any real knowledge of what it takes to be successful in the job.
My suspicion for the motive of people wanting to jump in and contribute to a marketing and PR plan is that the job seems like fun. And it is. It certainly allows me to get my creative juices flowing and have a great time hosting press conferences, gala events, and rolling out internal communications efforts. But I do these things successfully because I have the experience to do them professionally; not just because I think they’re fun.
A company cannot cut marketing and PR jobs–or re-assign them to cheaper/less experienced resources–and expect performance to remain the same. Despite how it might seem, these are specialized positions that require specialized knowledge, and to presume that someone without the training or skill can do these jobs is to start a steady decline toward failure. A good marketing and/or PR professional is worth his weight in gold, and don’t let anybody–especially someone not versed in the field–tell you otherwise.