11 May 2007

It's not like they haven't got the time...

I have 39 feeds relating to the public relations industry coming into my reader (actually, it's Netvibes, which I simply adore...). OK, so some of these - as the leprechaun often rightly points out - aren't actually about PR itself. They're about blogging widgets and the like...it just so happens they they're written by people who work in the PR industry. But that's an axe to grind for another day.

It struck me this morning, however, that not a single one of these is penned by a PR professional working in-house...none of 'em. Nada. Zip.

Why is that? I mean, it's not like these guys aren't often senior PR people. Many of then will have spent years in agency before moving in-house...something that surely gives them an interesting perspective? They could comment on how agencies run campaigns, manage relationships...piss the client off. It'd be useful and interesting stuff. And if we accept the traditionally held beliefs that the in-house address is No.1 Easy Street, PRville, they should have the time to do it.

This traditionally held belief is, of course, utter bollocks. In fact, if more people in agency understood the in-house role, then I reckon numerous client-agency relationships would be transformed overnight.

I had a very frank conversation with a client's PR manager once. He felt that my team in the agency had something of an attitude problem; that they avoided his calls and evaded requests and felt that he was overly demanding and, frankly, something of a pain in the arse. And he was.

Thing is, he wasn't complaining about that perception per se, he was complaining that my team didn't understand his role - and the pressures he had to face - well enough to know why he was driven to behave like that.

"I think your team perceives that their work stops at me; that I'm my own boss and answer to nobody," he told me. "Here's an example. When we receive a less-than-glowing piece of coverage in a leading trade mag or a national, I guess your team is waiting for a call from me...that the phone will ring and I'll be on it demanding to know, in double-quick time, what the hell happened. And I will.

"The reason I'm behaving like that," he continued, "is because our CEO's office - yes, the man who pays all our bills - is only 25 metres from my desk. He quite often makes that short walk, newspaper in hand, to ask me, "what the fuck am I paying you for, and what the fuck are those poncy PR types in London up to?" That's a fairly direct pressure I have to deal with, so sometimes I pass a bit of that on."

We seem to invest heavily in agency in making our people understand the demands of the media...how hacks work, how they build stories, how these get sub-edited, deadlines...all of which is vital to doing a decent job. We don't seem to invest quite so much in helping our people understand the demands placed upon the in-house team...why, for instance, the deadline for the monthly report is so important, as it then feeds into a management report which helps justify the PR function, its budget, our fee and, hence, all our jobs. Stuff like that. Perhaps we should.

Anyway, does anyone know, though, of a good blog from an in-house PR pro? Anyone fancy starting one..?


Fiona Blamey said...

Quite right re. the pressures on the in-house person. I've never worked harder than I did when I was in-house, and that's because the remit had no limits. It's not like I was committed to produce six news stories a month, or two bylined articles, like an agency retainer - there was simply no limit to the expectations. And I was responsible for 125 products.

As to why you don't see any in-house PR manager blogs, I would suggest the following reasons:

1) The in-house PR manager has no spare time, and what spare time they do have, they don't want to spend in front of a computer.

2) In-house PR people are (in my experience, ymmv) only just coming round to understanding what this blogging lark is all about.

3) They're (justifiably) scared of saying something the CEO who pays all their wages doesn't like.

4) An in-house PR person doesn't have such a great need to advertise their skills, in comparison with an agency person who's hoping to get hired (or headhunted) on the basis of the knowledge and expertise they demonstrate through their blogs.

Anonymous said...

Tom Murphy is the in-house PR for Microsoft Ireland. Is his feed not amongst your 39?

....the world's leading.... said...

Shit, of course, you're right! And there's me referencing him and all. How silly. Mind you, he's Irish and I, of course, was just talking about British bloggers. Ahem.

But, you see, the thing is, I knew Tom when he was just a young whipper-snapper of an agency AE like myself...and I haven't seen him since, so I still think he is.

So Tom, if you're reading this, give us the in-house perspective on why there aren't more of your ilk (says TWL, back-tracking, humiliated, and trying to gloss over his idiocy...).

Ben Schmark said...

Stupid question this. But here goes.

I know bugger all about PR. But I do know that every minute of the day is accounted for.

It all goes on some hapless client's time sheet.

So which poor schmuck gets to pay for all the time that, say, Write Image spend on their tedious self indulgent blogs?

Whenever there's a blog, there's a victim you know.

....the world's leading.... said...

Ah, well Ben, this is where were enter the smoky den of vice that is know as 'billable hours'.

You're right, every minute of every working day is (usually inaccurately) accounted for on a spreadsheet, but not every minute is charged to the clients.

Different levels of seniority have different expectations of billable time...in general, the higher up the ladder you climb, the less of your time is expected to get charged to clients ('cause you're meant to be doing things like new business, training people, running the show...). Obviously this leads to extortionate hourly rates for senior staff, as they still need to pay their hugely inflated salaries even when doing next to no client work.

So, in reality, the time that is spent by the likes of Write Image (Metia as it is now) on blogs doesn't get charged to clients, it goes against something like "marketing" or "business development".

Does that help?

Ben Schmark said...

Ah, I get it now.

I had lunch with this woman from Sun Microsystems once. It was her suggestion.

She told me later that her agency found out we'd met up, then tried to bill her for setting up the meeting.

Now that's thinking outside the box.

A and B the C of D said...

Ben Schmark - as in "Benchmark" - very clever. Or if it is your real name - kudos to your parents.

Tom Murphy said...


OK since it's you asking I'll try and tackle this later in the week :--)

The Leprechaun