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Really Dumb PR Question

confused.jpgSo I’ve recently noticed a trend at parties or events since I’ve held a position in the PR field. When people ask me what I do I try to judge how much I think I know about them and what they might now about PR before I answer (look at that, the “know your audience” concept at work). This has become increasingly more difficult recently as I have found myself in more and more situations where I am meeting people for the first time.

I usually just tell them I’m an account executive for an advertising/PR firm in Canton. At this point, one of two things happen. They either say, “oh,” followed by an awkward silence usually broken by me excusing myself to get another a) drink b) brownie c) conversation partner.

Then there are the folks who kind of understand what I might do. These people usually have latched on to the “advertising” word I mentioned in the answer to the question. Or, sometimes, they truly understand PR and want to know about my job. Former students I taught at Akron, fellow former grad students, or others who know of PR.

Invariably, the first thing these people ask me is “have any interesting clients?” This seems like such a monumentally inane question to me. Do you know how many businesses or products there are in the world? Especially business-to-business clients. If I could line up 50 PR or advertising folk and ask them that question, I’ll bet I wouldn’t recognize 75% of their clients. What do these people think I’m working on, VNRs for NASA? Pepsi’s new Super Bowl commercial? The crisis communication plan for Wal-Mart? And even better, what would it matter if I were working on a high-profile client. Because the next question they would ask SHOULD have been their first question, “what do you do for them?”

And that’s just it. I would much rather bore you to tears about my job if I were doing something really great for anyone, regardless of what client it was. My first question when I network with other ad/PR folk is always, “working on any cool projects?” because it’s the projects that matter, man, not the client when you’re shooting the breeze.

If you were building a really cool blog/MySpace concept for Bob’s House of Foam that would be what I wanted to hear about. I don’t want to hear that Crusty Widgets Inc. is your client, but that you were working on putting together a massive crisis management/communication plan together for them. It’s what you do with PR that matters, not just who you do it for. It tells me that you love your job, that you think your projects are cool, that you really enjoy your work. Not that you only enjoy your work ’cause you write press releases for some client who actually doesn’t even know you, but whose name speaks volume. “Yes, we do work for Coke and Crest.” “Oh, what do you do for them?” “Uh, we also do work for Victoria’s Secret,” he might say desperately. “Oh,” say I, obviously taking the bate. Do you know any of the models?”

Of course he doesn’t know the models or he would have started by shouting directly into my face, “I went to a party at Tyra’s house and saw a bunch of super models!!!!” whether he knew me or not.

Maybe I’m unique, but that’s just how I feel about it. Maybe if the Columbus Blue Jackets were my client I’d be more excited about people asking me about it. I’m more interested in the process than the product, usually. How about you?

Disclaimer: Neither Bob’s House of Foam, Crusty Widgets Inc., or any of those other companies are clients of mine.

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