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PR 'needs to change tone'

16/09/2013

The PR industry has, to be charitable, something of a reputation among journalists for waffle and exaggeration when promoting a project, service or client to the media. While this position can sometimes be overstated - see Tom Peck's amusing, if unquotable, recent response to a PR email - there is a genuine problem that some PR agencies may not be communicating their point effectively behind the hyperbole.

Given the increasing pressures placed on people working in the media industry, who are often over-worked and bombarded with hundreds of emails a day, PR can stand out by being concise, engaging and directive rather than indiscriminately enthusiastic.

Nicola Green, Telefonica UK's director of comms and reputation, recently told PR Week that one of the problems facing the sector is its unwillingness to challenge other stakeholders within an organisation - especially the marketing department, which tends to drive much of the terrible fluff that comms professionals are forced to push.

"They (marketers) have a more emotional attachment to their products. And they tend to be much more insular in their views. The PR person must be the conscience of the company," argued Ms Green.

What this means in practice is applying a degree of scepticism, or at least realism, to the more grandiose claims put forward by the marketing team. While talking down a product seems counter-intuitive, avoiding the kind of hysterical rhetoric that enrages journalists will actually improve your chances of getting some press.

Victor Benady, digital managing director at Grayling, argued that technological changes are making the hyperbolic approach even more out-dated.

"If there are fault lines in your message you are very exposed in social media and you will be found out within minutes," he added.

Ultimately, platforms such as Twitter and Facebook offer PR the chance to connect directly with consumers without the mediating role of journalism, meaning new forms of comms are likely to emerge in the coming years.