Just like anyone with customers, PR people have been guilty of atrocious customer service.
Leaving aside for a moment the client which actually pays the bill, the other main customer is the journalist. Yet despite countless courses, internal mentoring from old hands and being shouted at down the phone by an irate correspondent on deadline, some PR consultants still get it wildly wrong with the media. And one of the greatest offences remains the unfocused, pointless and often desperate phone call to ask the journalist, pleading: “Did you get the press release I sent?”
So, as communications skills need to shift to meet the mores of Web 2.0, are PR people (not “PRs”, please – that’s just not good Inglish, rite?) behaving themselves?
The Independent’s Cyberclinic writer, Rhodri Marsden, seems to think not. In this week’s column - which suggests the populace give Twitter a go before believing, as the Daily Mail does, that it’s “boring” – he warns the reader to “Ignore the companies and PR agencies hell-bent on turning it into an advertising platform”.
PR Blogger Stephen Davies has spotted PR people using Twitter to pester journalists with the loathed “Did you receive my…” question and canvassed views via, well, Twitter. What might surprise Rhodri Marsden is the almost “born again” response from the PR community, treating such practices with abject revulsion and suggesting the need for offenders to undergo a Twitter etiquette course. Maybe more PR practitioners than imagined have undone their evil ways and those persisting with naughty behaviour are being treated as a pariah minority?
But more surprising is the journalists’ response to Davies’ question. A fearsome critic of poor PR tactics, The Guardian’s Charles Arthur, comes out almost cuddly, saying: “I’m all for it” (on the proviso it’s in lieu of a phone call. The penalty for getting that wrong is inconceivable). And then @RobinBrown78 kicks back with “Relaxed about it – as long as it’s relevant.”
So, (some) journalists are virtually embracing Twitter free love, while PR people are mounting a Web 2.0 version of the Spanish Inquisition on their own. Clearly, the world has gone mad, but never – despite what the Daily Mail says – boring.
*Update – the Daily Mail comes under attack from “Twitter vigilantes”. Oh Lord!