Here at London PR we’re fighting in the trenches each and every day. Yep, we are engaged in a war on fluff. Or to be more precise, a war on fluffy PR.
What do I mean by fluffy PR? Well, simply put, I define fluffy PR as PR activity for it’s own sake. This is the stuff that is never going to gain any meaningful results for clients but agencies do it anyway, often because they lack real ideas and are just going through the motions. The stuff that gives PR agencies a bad name.
The kind of activity agencies engage in which wastes the client’s investment includes sending out drivel dressed up as press releases. You would be amazed at the volume of weak, meaningless rubbish that gets pumped out by some PR agencies.
They spend hours on this stuff but it doesn’t even get read. Any journalist worth their salt can sniff this kind of BS out as soon as it lands in the inbox. They might read the first sentence perhaps, more often it will be just the first few words before they hit delete. But the agency will bill clients for hours, even days of time.
Fluffy PR isn’t just about issuing dross though. It also involves putting on expensive events which cost clients big money but only succeed in bringing the vultures out for free food and booze. Every town in the UK has more than its fair share of ‘journalists’ who will turn up for the opening of an envelope if there is free Prosecco involved. It’s no big skill to get them to come along, as long as the client is footing the bill of course.
The problem comes after the expensive event when there’s little by the way of media coverage and even less in terms of the anticipated revenue boosting sales lift. If you’re lucky you might get a quarter page write up in the back of the local rag or a quick mention on the radio. As a return on investment it’s meaningless but the fluffy PR agency doesn’t want their client to know that so they dress it up as if it’s the Oscars. Get real guys.
Perhaps the biggest sin the fluffy PR makes is falling into the toxic habit of saying ‘Yes’ all the time. They become ‘Yes, Yes, Yes’, men and women. So it’s yes, to every single idea the client ever suggests. That includes the ideas that are only going to cost the client money and provide little or nothing in return. The fluffy PR doesn’t have any real ideas of their own other than wasting the client’s money anyway so they are not equipped to offer real consultancy, to be able to stand up and say a polite but firm ‘No’ when a client suggests activity which is only going to waste their money and everyone’s time.
We’ve lost count of the number of clients who have come to us after getting their fingers burned in the past with fluffy PR agencies. We know there are some great agencies out there but sometimes it feels like the majority are churning out fluff. We’ve talked to clients who have literally invested high five and even six figure sums and had little or nothing in return. No wonder they become suspicious of PR professionals.
We in PR have a duty to only engage in activity which is going to have a real positive effect for our clients. Yes, it’s not an exact science and some ideas are always going to work better than others. But if we don’t believe in a story or a piece of work we shouldn’t be issuing or pursuing it. How can we expect journalists to get behind a client if even we don’t feel enthused?
PR can be the most effective form of marketing of them all but only if the team behind it understand the difference between PR for its own sake aka fluff and real results driven activity. Right, rant over, I’m needed back in the trenches.
© London PR 2017