You are here
Public relations is a serious profession. We are entrusted with the good names and reputations of our employers and clients, and if we bungle the job, the results can be catastrophic.
So it’s worth doing right. But what is that, exactly? It’s just a matter of good people skills and common sense, right?
Not really, no. Much of what we do can be downright counter-intuitive, and it often goes against what untrained people are certain they know. When this is the case, we may have trouble getting our clients and employers to do our jobs right.
One approach is to take the easy way out by compromising the principles of sound public relations, and telling our clients what they want to hear. Go along to get along, as it were. Over time, we may even forget (if we ever knew) that there is really a right way and a wrong way to “do public relations.” We ignore the profession’s body of knowledge, and thereby diminishes what we do.
The APR designation addresses the two critical needs we all have: (1) knowing the right way to do things, and (2) gaining the confidence of our employers/clients so that we can do a proper job.
It’s been my pleasure over the years to play a small role in helping fellow professionals earn the APR. Over that time, I’ve found that the biggest obstacle is (wait for it) the failure to take it seriously. I’ve heard older non-accredited colleagues advise others, “Oh, you and I could pass it without even studying,” and wanted to start throwing things. I’ve seen candidates show up for a readiness review with no visible sign of having been mentored or trained. I’ve seen some jump in too soon, before they logged any real experience in the profession, treating it as some sort of entitlement or automatic step, like walking across the stage for their diploma. I’ve seen others procrastinate and have to rush up a Readiness Review in order to get to the Computer Based Exam before the clock runs out. (Aside: When you do this, and three accredited professionals drop everything to sink a half day or more in an expedited Readiness Review and you show up unprepared, you’re not scoring any points.)
And I’ve seen others who worked hard, took sound advice, studied and passed the examination. They wear their APR pins proudly, and use the designation at every opportunity. More importantly, they have earned credibility. They’ve taken themselves and their profession seriously. As a result their clients are more likely to listen to them and take their advice.
They have the knowledge and the professional “weight” to stand firm when their employers want to pursue a course that could be damaging to their own best interest. They refuse to lie, work through “false fronts” and offer payoffs, because they know the Code of Ethics and understand why it matters.
So here’s my challenge as we move into the holiday season: Take yourself and your career seriously. Take your profession seriously enough to do it right, and earn the respect it takes to make that happen in the real world. Your colleagues will appreciate it, because you represent them as well. Some of us get downright mad when you mess things up and bring a bad name on the profession to which we have devoted our lives.
You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
So let’s do it right. If you’re at the right time in your career (I recommend at least five years of full-time experience, though it’s no longer required), talk to one of your accredited colleagues about pursuing the credential. I’ve never known an APR who would turn down a colleague who would say no to helping you.
Barring a write-in vote, I’ll be serving as Alabama PRSA co-chair for accreditation in 2015, along with Ashley Fulmer, APR. We haven’t nailed down our plans yet, but I know Ashley shares my passion for the program, and we’ll be doing whatever we can to help our colleagues advance their careers — and their profession — by earning the APR. I hope you’ll feel free to call on either of us.
I dumped my cable company. I no longer get ESPN, CNN, FOX or MSNBC.
A couple of years ago, the very idea would have been unthinkable. But when I wrote my check to the cable company last month (about $100 for 300-400 channels, of which I watched two or three), I began to review how my wife and I actually consume television.
At the same time, I saw that a new crop of digital antennas had dropped in price to around $40. I picked up one at Costco as an experiment and hooked it up to the TV in my den. It scanned the channels and picked up all the local channels (affiliates of ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS and Fox). Within just a couple of minutes, I had the antenna in a position (well out of sight) where everything came in with clear HD signals. I already had Roku boxes on all my sets, giving me access to Netflix, Amazon Prime and plenty of channels for news, sports and weather.
Then I remembered that my cable package included a promotion that was about expire, and my bill was about to go up $30. The idea of paying $130 a month for three or four channels seemed insane. Could I afford it? Sure. But it hit my choke point, at which something inside me rebelled.
I called my cable provider and asked about downgrading to a lower package. They said if I did, I’d lose my promotional deal and the price would actually go up $15 a month. I posted something snarky about it on social media, and a surprising number of friends told me they’d already been living happily without cable. Contrary to what you may believe, these weren’t just Millennials, but also middle-aged professionals.
If you do a Google News search on “cord cutting,” you will quickly find a lot of recent articles from Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, among others. Most agree that the cable TV model of bundling – forcing customers to buy hundreds of channels rather than just allowing them to buy what they actually want – is living on borrowed time.
By most accounts, the cable companies are losing customers. As reported by Bloomberg, the total number of cable subscribers dropped for the first time in 2013. Cable advocates counter that the numbers of those leaving cable are still small. However, we have to count not only those who cut existing cable service, but also those (primarily Millennials) who never had it in the first place.
There is evidence that some of the content providers are getting restless. HBO has announced that it will sell directly to users soon, and CBS has begun offering its programming for a few dollars a month over the Internet.
But the big thing people can’t give up is sports – ESPN in particular – and we’ve seen no movement on their part. Bob Iger, CEO of Disney (which owns ESPN) has said that marketing directly to consumers is a good concept, and Disney’s prepared to do so.
But he’s in no hurry, because once ESPN goes, cable users could begin to drop out quickly. For now, Disney/ESPN gets $6.04 per month per subscriber from the cable companies, and Disney will milk that cash cow as long as it can. (To get an idea just how big a factor ESPN is, compare that with the runner-up, for which the cable companies pay $1.48 per subscriber per month. The WSJ estimates that the median is a meager 14 cents, which gives us a good idea of how much junk there is in that 400-channel package.
In short, Disney has the cable providers by the throat. They could break up the entire system. On the other hand, they could also simply double their charges to the cable companies and probably make more money.What’s ahead?
Despite all this, I’m not convinced that the entire cable system is on the verge of collapse. The inevitable isn’t necessarily imminent. My guess is that we’ll see some movement by the cable companies to offer smaller packages, ratcheting down to preserve as much of the revenue as they can for as long as possible, while continuing to plug the technology holes.
On the other hand, if Iger and Disney pull the plug, things could deteriorate very quickly, and cable companies could end up allowing us to pick and choose our channels, paying only for the ones we actually want.