Crystallising the channel-agnostic trickledown of PR Bullshit

October 28, 2013
Andy Bothwell

People who know me know that I’m a firm advocate of Plain English. Of telling it like it is in the simplest terms.

As someone in a communications role, you’d think it was a given that I and everyone in my profession are adept in communicating clearly, succinctly and with the maximum of impact.

Not so, according to PR Week’s latest analysis of what is, apparently, the growing trend in the use of “PR Bullshit”.

The article asserts that one of the biggest issues that members of the media have with the PR industry is its lack of sincerity, propensity for wildly overblown claims and use of ridiculous, largely meaningless, jargon.

Sadly, I have to wholeheartedly agree with much contained within this article. The phenomenon of BS in the PR industry exasperates and infuriates me in equal measure – not least because, once the virus infects you, it’s surprisingly hard to clear.

The use of nonsense PR bullshit is something I hear and see too much every day.

We do not have ideas any more; we crystallise blue-sky thoughts in brainstorms.

We do not create stories that work in print as well as online; we generate channel-agnostic content.

Around the client boardroom table? Maybe ok. When talking to journalists or <sharp intake of breath> a member of the public? Very definitely not ok, people.

It’s all rather sad to me, both as a PR professional and as a lover of the fine English language. Moreover, I believe that any phrase that demands an explanation immediately after it is used is

  • Fundamentally flawed when being used in the business of communications
  • Pointless, as it immediately undermines any assertion you are trying to make and
  • Probably designed as a shield behind which its user is attempting to hide, either through malicious veiling of the facts or through a lack of understanding of subject matter

Of course, there are always two sides to every story and, whilst I agree with the majority of the PR Week article, I do wonder whether there is a backlash to be started here.

After all, PR people are not stupid. If using one mode of communication with journalists isn’t working, whether down to excessive use of bullshit or not, they will surely change what they’re doing, or how they’re doing it.

And, if journalists have reached the point at which any hint of insincerity or lack of authenticity in a PR sell-in is deleted instantly on principle, PRs would adjust their tactics accordingly.

At least, that’s the feeling among the like-minded people with whom I share an office and a working day.

So is the ‘Curse of Bull’ really on the rise or could it be that lazy journalists are simply looking for an excuse to ditch a proportion the admittedly frightening number of PR pitches they receive every day, rather than actually examine their content?

I’d venture to say that there’s fault on both sides but, either way, there’s no excuse for PR people not being able to tell a story without resorting to nonsense speak. I was reminded recently by a journalist of the old adage which still rings true – tell your story like you would to your mates down the pub.

If any of my friends ever hear me talking about “channel-agnostic content” at the Woodlark, you have my permission to kick me in the nuts. Immediately.

Is that clear enough?

Tags: BS-Free, pr,

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