Upward persuasion, Self-flagellation, Rage management, and the Black list

Once again, the PR blogosphere was aflame with the age-old war between journalism and PR. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a collection of links about the pissing match. I tried to stay out of it, because I’m losing patience for people who lose patience and make their rage public. But the best thing to have come out of it might be this comment by an UGA student, published on the Bad Pitch Blog. And also this comment that talks about how difficult it might be for entry-level PR people to persuade their bosses to do the right thing.

So here are an educator’s random thoughts about this issue:

  • OK, we do teach students about pitching the right way, but we also need to teach them upward persuasion – that is, how to persuade & educate their superiors, how to earn power, credibility, and influence in the workplace. This book on gaining influence in public relations might be a good read for students.
  • Many people who practice PR today weren’t trained in PR in college, because many (most) college PR programs are relatively new. This might partially explain the problem.
  • Self-flagellation by PR people who bash themselves and their profession isn’t necessarily constructive. I believe in self-examination and self-critique, but I wonder if we don’t contribute to (further) lowering the profession’s reputation by engaging in over-eager criticism of PR.
  • I wonder if journalism’s power high is still justified. Yes, PR needs journalists, but let’s face it, self-publishing and SEO are changing the power dynamics. Last time I checked, journalism as a field was in a bit more trouble than PR.
  • This “war” between journalism and PR is an age-old discourse that keeps resurfacing now and again, and the same arguments keep being exchanged, again and again. Many people are learning, many PR practices are changing, but don’t worry, this won’t be over any time soon. But I do expect it will lose some currency as it becomes old news. It’s possible that soon enough every PR agency out there will be black-listed on a wiki, and then, what?

So, are you disappointed that I don’t have a solution?

The fighting is the way to the solution.

Just like in an old marriage, or any other system, the partners do a constant dance of adapting to each other. And they often step on each other’s feet. Fighting plays the necessary part of negotiating roles and a working relationship. It’s natural. It’s old. As things change, it will keep happening. There will never be a perfect balance between journalism and PR. It’s theoretically impossible. This relationship, like all others, is and will be in continuous flux. We’ll keep going back and forth trying to adapt to each other and find ways to coexist. The arguments are natural, healthy, and unavoidable. But, can we manage the rage?

2 thoughts on “Upward persuasion, Self-flagellation, Rage management, and the Black list”

  1. Brilliantly said! I am not so sure all would be so free with their words and emotions without the online buffer.

    The lack of upward persuasion issue is one my blog battled with the twelve step basics. There is a huge gap between what is taught and what is expected by superiors. Food chain and lack of self-confidence allow the superior to have the last word.

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