In the latest issue of the English-written magazine Czech Business Weekly, the Chief Reporter Cristina Muntean pleaded for more accountability and empathy among the Czech Public Relations officers.
Her claim was that we need to empathise with the reporters and take their needs into account. Given the state of affairs on the Czech PR market, I have to argue that it is often impossible to do so, especially when it comes to junior staff members. I would also like to give you more thorough analysis of the situation.
The clueless juniors
Few years ago, the Czech PR practitioners were recruited from the ranks of journalists who decided to go into corporate communications. The situation nowadays has changed. The junior staff structure has shifted from the former reporters to students with no practical experience with the media. Thus, even if they wanted to put themselves in the reporters’ shoes, they would have no idea how to do it because they are unfamiliar with the day-to-day practice governing the newsrooms.
In my opinion, education is to blame. By and large, most PROs are not properly educated in what they are doing. They operate on a cause-effect basis instead of understanding the big picture. I’ll go even further and say that they are often not even aware of any broader context due to their lack of elementary knowledge of the media business.
The Czech education gives nearly no space to produce high-quality PR professionals. There are only several institutions (not more than five) offering a Bachelor’s degree focused solely on PR and communications. When it comes to a Master’s degree, there is only one university offering education on that level. Don’t tell me that the lack of well-grounded education does not contribute to the stagnation of the PR discipline.
Accountability and measurement
When Cristina called for more accountability, she mentioned the importance of clear performance indicators which are connected to rigorous measurement of PR effectiveness. The problem everyone is facing is measuring PR in a meaningful manner and linking it to sales. The agencies do possess certain metrics for evaluating the success of the campaigns but overall, there is no pressure from the clients to use them.
The marketing managers and directors see no use of the data the agencies are able to supply them with. They are content only with the quantity of articles and a rough analysis of the tone so far. Being quantity-oriented, they want the agencies to get them ink in the first place, while disregarding the methods of the agencies. This state of affairs must change but the question of who will be the change agent still remains.
So far, the journalists have been blaming the PROs for being inconsiderate and irrelevant. The PROs have been blaming the journalists for being not opened to different perspectives. And last but not least, the companies represented by the communications agencies were actively blaming both sides for being incompetent. Who will step up to the plate and start upsetting the established order. Will the impulse come from the journalists or does it have to come from the clients to finally rouse the agencies from lethargy? I wonder what are Cristina’s thoughts on this one.
The tragedy of the worst practices
I said it before and I’ll say it again. The field of PR in the Czech Republic is still developing but instead of improvement I begin to notice that in some agencies the worst practices are transmitted to the junior staff. When the juniors occupy senior positions, they perpetuate the worst practices on the juniors and interns. I must admit that in this sense I am very lucky because no such thing has ever happened to me. However, the vicious circle is a widespread problem.
As I’ve heard, not only Czech practitioners are struggling with the issue. Stuart Bruce discussed the similar problem and I am sure it’s growing rampant in the U.S. as well. Is education really the proper response to these bad practices? The Brits and the Americans have a well-developed system of PR curricula and it seems that it’s working only to a limited extent. That’s vexing me…