Never a dull moment in public relations
Article by Jacqueline Arnold @ TwentyTwo13 (25 July 2023)
I love the public relations (PR) profession and I love being a PR consultant. There’s never a dull moment in PR.
However, there are days when I feel like tearing my hair out; days when it’s evident that clients don’t understand what PR is, and isn’t, about.
These are a couple of classic examples:
Calling PR consultants ‘spin doctors’
Firstly, if you’re going to use the term, please use it correctly. It should be restricted to the realm of politics. Those of us in corporate PR feel insulted when the term is used to describe us. The word ‘spin’ has a negative connotation. It suggests that we are twisting facts with the intent to deceive. This is highly unethical and goes against the very core of what PR stands for. PR consultants who are members of any industry association abide by a strict code of ethics. PR is first and foremost about ethics.
Requesting for guaranteed media attendance and guaranteed media coverage
If you want guaranteed coverage, please invest in advertisements. Also, there is no such thing as guaranteed media attendance, even if you’re an advertiser, because the media are stretched to the limit and are hard-pressed to spare a resource for half a day.
PR’s role is to advise and counsel on newsworthy angles that the media would find interesting and exciting. For example, we recently handled the media launch of Volvo Trucks Malaysia’s first fully electric prime movers in Malaysia and Southeast Asia. Sustainability, reduction of carbon footprint and electric vehicle being very hot topics, we received overwhelming interest from the media; 54 media representatives from 36 media titles attended the event. This is the kind of response PR-oriented companies achieve.
The tender process
The Request for Information (RFI) is the first step in the process, especially if you’re not very familiar with the different components in communication. The industry has become highly specialised.
Advertising, PR, digital, social media, media buy, and media monitoring are all highly specialised fields. So, if you’re not familiar with the industry and with who does what, it’s best to first find out. Do your research.
Next, you’ll proceed with writing a brief of the requirements and then issue a Request for Proposal (RFP), which should contain all the requirements, and it should be issued to the appropriate parties.
Recently, a certain national regulatory body invited PR agencies to an RFP briefing for ‘communications services’, when in fact they required media buying services. Media buying is a specialised field. PR does not do media buying. Such a waste of everyone’s time and resources, not to mention taxpayers’ money.
The commission also failed to mention in their invitation that the project was only open to companies registered with the Finance Ministry. Such prerequisites should be stated upfront to save everyone’s time.
And what I found particularly curious was that the briefing was hosted by the project manager (a technical person, most likely an engineer) and a representative from procurement. The communications person was nowhere in sight and the other two who were present were unable to respond to PR-related questions raised by attendees.
The Malaysian media and communications industry is on par with the best in the world. Our government-linked companies (GLCs) and multinational corporations (MNCs) are very much up to date.
We look forward to the SME and government sectors catching up. It would give the economy a big boost.