The Seven Deadly Sins of PR

Rachel McArthur, Managing Editor of Digital Ink offers her thoughts on the pitfalls that many PRs fall into in the UAE, and how to overcome them…

It’s that age-old battle of Editors vs. PRs, and vice-versa. We’re the Tom & Jerry of media, constantly provoking each other.

PR: you can’t live with it; you can’t live without it. At least that’s what the majority of us journalists say. If you’re a Twitter user – or Facebook friends with media folk – chances are you have come across posts complaining about the state of PR, or journalism – or both. Yup, it’s that age-old battle of Editors vs. PRs, and vice-versa. We’re the Tom & Jerry of media, constantly provoking each other.

In all seriousness, neither is that bad and I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of annoying someone in the past. But when it comes to the most regular PR mistakes, myself – along with some close journo friends – thought we would highlight the most common sins:

1) Calls, Calls, Calls
This is number one on the list for the majority of journalists. Let me set the scene for you – you’re hard at work trying to meet client deadlines, but you keep getting distracted thanks to friends calling you up every 15 minutes about plans for the weekend. If you took every single call, you will have achieved next to nothing by the end of the day.

And that’s what it is like for us. For example, today my phone went off at least twice every hour for things that were not urgent. If you have sent me an email release and it is interesting/relevant, chances are I’ll probably use it. Maybe today, or later on in the month. But please don’t call me to check that I have received it.

Personally, I am also not a fan of phone pitches as I have the memory of a goldfish, and so if it is not on email, I will have forgotten about it by the end of the day. The only time calls are okay is when something is urgent.

2) Know Your Audience
A little research goes a long way in establishing good relationships with Editors. A release that is not relevant to my publication is like junk email – totally useless. If I am a celebrity writer, chances are I won’t be interested in covering the Dubai Business Forum. The opposite also happens – when a PR doesn’t approach the right people. Only last week somebody was telling me about a car launch event where the UAE’s top three motoring Journalists were not invited as the newly-appointed PR agency had no idea who they were. Oops…

3) Not responding to queries
A good PR professional is someone who is happy to talk at all times – not just when they have an event or press release etc. I have lost count of the times I have reached out with a query, only to have my email(s) not even responded to. Granted, a lot of times it is down to the client themselves, but clients need to understand that it’s just like customer service: they can’t just acknowledge good feedback and ignore complaints… people won’t respect your position in the market if you’re weak.

4) Images & WeTransfer
Why do some PRs send out a release without at a single decent image? An image resolution that will work for web might not necessarily work for print, therefore, always prepare high-resolution photos. But even worse than bad images are images sent via WeTransfer, and here’s why:

a) If it’s not a breaking news story, chances are we won’t need the images straightaway (e.g. product images, restaurants etc.), so we’ll label the email and refer to it later. Unfortunately, by the time we get back to it, the WeTransfer link has expired! Why not use Dropbox or Google Drive? Make it easy for the journalist to refer back to your releases and you’ll increase your chances of coverage.

b) WeTransfer takes ages to download, especially when the file is over 500MB in size. Dropbox allows us to browse/choose the images we download, as opposed to downloading a massive file just to use one image.

5) No, I am not a blogger
Yes, there are some massively influential bloggers out there, but there are also quite a few who have bought their way to the top (you know who you are). Don’t mix Journalists with Bloggers… we’ve spent years in this industry, we work hard, and we have crazy deadlines. So when organising interviews, for example, it goes a long way if you prioritise journalists who have to go back to the office asap and file copy. A friend of mine – who works with one of the UAE’s leading radio stations – was made to wait for two hours at a recent celeb event because some bloggers were given interview slots before her. This is despite the fact she had to go on air later on that afternoon, while chances are the bloggers posted their stories later on in the week.

6) Missing important info
Got listings/info for shopping pages? Send me product names, images, prices and stockists, and I will love you forever and ever. You’ve just saved me an email requesting missing info.

7) Being told I will get something for free
And finally… a Journalist will cover a story, because it is interesting and/or it is of interest to their readers, NOT because they will get something in return. Please don’t send me an email inviting me to an event with a note at the bottom saying: “If you attend, you will receive X, Y or Z.” If your event/story is strong enough, you won’t need to bribe people to come. Right?

Now, I know this doesn’t apply to everyone and I’m sure our PR friends have lots to say about Journalists/Editors as well… so I’m looking forward to reading that post! Who’s brave enough?

X marks the spot – the importance of target marketing

Andres Mongrue, Associate Regional Director at Starcom MediaVest Group, MENA offers his thoughts on why it is so important for markets to identify, and aim for, a target market…

For many of the largest clients present in the Middle East today, segmenting audiences is of critical importance.

“Half my advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half.” – John Wanamaker, American Retailer, (1838-1922).

While the sentiment behind Wanamaker’s famous statement still rings true for some marketers today, a lot has changed since he originally turned the phrase. In today’s turbulent business economy, the need to maximise ROI for each dollar spent continues to drive marketers away from wasteful mass targeting choices of the past toward more efficient targeted communication.

The concept behind target marketing is simple; target relevant communication to the relevant audience in the right place and at the right time when they are most receptive to your message. This approach continues to replace mass communication of the past, where marketers targeted everyone with the same message in the hopes of it falling on their target audience – an approach that has proven to be costly and ineffective.

For many of the largest clients present in the Middle East today, segmenting audiences is of critical importance. Take, for example, a market like Egypt, which boasts a population exceeding 80 million; to reach everyone with one message would be highly inefficient for even the biggest media spenders. A marketer selling a line of shampoo products, for instance, would be better off identifying need-based target groups and focusing relevant communication to them. A mother of three living in rural Egypt will have a very different motivation for her purchase decisions, as well as a different set of media choices, versus a young millennial living in Cairo. Through a unique set of media choices such as digital, mobile and social, the marketer can deliver tailored messaging intended for the millennial, while TV speaks to the rural mother. This approach would lead to a much more efficient market strategy than trying to reach all 40-plus million women in Egypt at once.

While the concept of target marketing may not be new, the emergence of digital and data has changed how marketers go about it. As media companies such as Facebook evolve from a social media network to a $212 billion-dollar Tech company, they open up new possibilities on how to leverage the deluge of data available around the 1.44 billion users on their platforms. Today, marketers have at their disposal online behavioral data that allows them to get as granular as possible to target consumers by their purchases, interests, behaviors and even intent. The growing complexity can be daunting, but the best marketers are embracing this change and simplifying their approaches by always bringing their targeting strategies back to the business objective at hand.

The fundamentals of strategy are always the same

 “A company without a communication strategy is like a ship without a compass”

In an age where demonstrating results of PR campaigns and the ROI of communication spend is increasingly important, I am still amazed when I come across an organisation that is running full-speed with little or no communication strategy, project plan or activity calendar in place. Inside such organisations, panic sets in whenever the C-Suite demands a press release (often the demand is not newsworthy), when a journalist requests an interview, or product managers demand an awareness campaign.

A company without a communication strategy is like a ship without a compass – meaning that the communication will only ever be ad-hoc, a waste of time AND resources, and at best reactive. Reporting on the success of the communication programme without a proper strategy is impossible, and at best can only deliver a coverage report stacked full of clippings.

Fortunately for those who have yet to put a communication strategy in place, the fundamentals of strategy are the same regardless of what industry, type of communication (PR, investor relations, employee communication), or the medium you think you should be using. In a nutshell, communication strategy must cover at a minimum: research, objectives, approach, tools/tactics, resources/budgets and evaluation.

The real power of a communication strategy is identifying how it fits into the bigger organisational picture – how it supports the overall objectives, such as reputational, business growth etc. This is the big picture question that asks ‘what is the point?’.

When building a communication strategy, the first step is to completely understand the reason communication is needed. Is it to support a business plan, an individual project, or activity? You need to ask ‘what is the point?’ before going down the road of building your strategy.

Strategy is more than the glue that holds tactics together; it provides direction and rationale for everything that we do in communications. Without it, we would stumble aimlessly through a darkened business forest and can be successfully challenged and undermined at every step by one simple question: why?


“A true rebrand starts with values and ends with identity”

Npimedia had something of a makeover in 2014. However, when thinking about it, I realised that while our identity was changed last summer, it was the culmination of a rebrand that was several years in the making.

But let’s talk identity to begin with, as it is the simplest part. At NPI, we wanted a stamp and label that would be a reflection of our mantra of ‘Quality, Audience and Transparency’ (QAT). These are the brand values that make our media what it is – exclusive and standout in a competitive market place.

Our previous logo was red and white and simply said NPI. Our new logo is gold and reflects our heritage of being born in the UAE and in Arabic reads as the word “time”. Our business cards are shaped like a label. They have a black background and on one side bear the gold logo, on the other our company details arranged in an ‘X’ pattern to reflect the “exclusive” aspect of our identity, yet in a subtle way.

We also changed our official name. We are still NPI but the full name is npimedia rather than Nicholas Publishing International, which reflected the family-run business that has its roots in print. These days we have one hand in the inkwell and the other is only virtually there, so “media” was a better word to use rather than publishing. Many companies also have the word “international” in them but operate only in a handful of markets – this was true of us and in keeping with our transparency mantra, we dropped this and simply went with npimedia. Each of our products now bear the stamp “Exclusive media by NPI” so our clients know that they will stand out from first glance.

So, that’s the identity part. But a name and a look does not make a company any more than it does a person. Great brands have heritage and are crafted over time. Ours certainly was, but our quest for product perfection had led us to forget the umbrella.

We have leading media portfolios and had been working for several years on the delivery of our corporate mantra (QAT). We had moved to audit every one of our consumer titles and were working towards a new digital strategy. This needed to be reflected in our outward identity to do justice to everything that had taken place behind the curtain.

So, what is a rebrand? It is more than a new name or logo – this is just window dressing that only matters before you are able to see behind the curtain. A true rebrand starts with values and ends with identity.

How #hashtags changed the way we talk

Brandon Ancier, Head of Growth at TINT offers his thoughts on the ever prevalent #hashtag and how this has not only influenced the personal and professional sphere, but changed it…

Hashtags escaped Twitter and spread, like a plague, to Facebook, to Instagram, to everyday speech.

The hashtag arose in 2007 as a way to categorise and ‘tag’ tweets. It slowly gained traction, until 2009 or 2010 when suddenly hashtags (and their users) went rogue. These errant tweeters took hashtags from their good and purposeful tagging function, and changed them into something terrible – a form of parenthical commentary on the rest of the tweet.

Hashtags escaped Twitter and spread, like a plague, to Facebook, to Instagram, to everyday speech, where it is now acceptable to say things like ‘I love you guys! Hashtag blessed!’

Yup. The hashtag is a linguistic tumour. But do I think hashtags are destroying the English language? No. However, if they’re not destructive, what are they? Here’s what I found:

  • Hashtags are ‘ Paralanguage’ – Paralanguage is something you already use, every day. It’s the non-verbal cues that accompany speech and help us express meaning and tone – shoulder shrugs, intonation, facial expressions. But in the world of text, it is difficult to communicate these non-verbal ideas, such as sarcasm or self-mockery. Hashtags have expanded that ability drastically. When we now complain about tangled headphones and append #firstworldproblems, it shows we know our own complaints are ridiculous. Hashtags are not a tumour – they help us add a much-needed tonal layer to our communications.
  • Hashtags are our Greek Chorus – In 2012, when spoken hashtags were first causin’ a ruckus, New Republic published an article that claimed hashtags were a sign of our modern times – part of a recent trend to see ourselves in the third person. Saying “Hashtag happy” elicits a mental picture of the speaker viewed from a distance, labeled with the word happy. In this framework, hashtags are a way of distancing ourselves from our own words as a commentary on what we’ve just said or experienced, a shift in viewpoint from first person to third person, similar to the narrator of a book or a chorus in a Greek play. Hashtags are serving as a very ancient literary device.
  • Hashtags were always meant to mimic speech – The written word and the spoken word have always influenced each other in their formality. In the past we spoke more formally because of how formally we wrote. In the present, we write less formally because of how informally we speak. Speech and writing influence each other, and always have. The way language trends develop and words become popular IRL (in real life) is mimicked on Twitter. We really are writing how we talk.

What does this mean for language? Well, linguists are pretty much divided. Some say verbal hashtags are a passing fad. Others don’t. But in a recent Mashable article, Linguist Gerard Van Herk argues that Internet speak has made us smarter: “Today’s youth are much more aware of the social and stylistic uses and meanings of different genres and language types, and are able to discuss them using metalinguistic terms like meme,” he writes. Yeah. That’s right. We’re the generation that uses METALINGUISTIC TERMS in everyday speech. Feel brilliant yet? Good.

So, if you’re trying to create a hashtag that will stick, there is at least one lesson we can take from the linguistics: Hashtags that straddle multiple uses (tagging and paralanguage, narrative and the informality of speech) are most likely to be successful.

But a common failure with hashtags? They often only use the tagging function of hashtags – not the metacommentary function, or the paralanguage function. There is an easy litmus test to avoid creating the #corporatehashtagthatnoonewilluseever. Ask yourself: Would you say it in daily speech? Would Justin Timberlake?

The answer should be yes.

The balancing act – making the most of PR trends in 2015

Lale Ansingh, Founder and Managing Director of Rawaj Internationl offers an expert view on the PR trends for this year and how to stay ahead of the game when it comes to implementing them into agency strategy…

The base of the communication is no longer a monologue – it has turned into a dialogue, where consumers are able to give their feedback instantaneously.

The fast emerging trend of digital and social media has become a significant channel in the PR industry and has proven to be an integral part of daily communication. With the majority consuming their media on digital platforms nowadays – 80% of those on mobile – this illustrates a significant shift in consumer behavior, offering organisations and brands the opportunity to maximise reach and communicate directly with their audience; there is increasing pressure for businesses to keep up. Due to these factors and the world becoming a more global environment, the ever-expanding realm of digital media is only going to increase its influence in 2015; it offers limitless opportunities for creativity and has become a strong tool in diversifying existing communication. The most integral aspect of digital media is the effective measurement tools available, whereby consumer behavior can be monitored and tied directly to the bottom line. This offers marketers the ability to assess the effectiveness of campaigns on achieving business objectives.

In the Middle East, digital media is showing rapid growth – from the UAE having the highest market penetration for mobile phones to KSA having the highest penetration on Twitter. This adds a new dimension to the way we can communicate with our audiences. We have the ability to add more visuals to our communication that enhances our storytelling ability and engagement with target audiences.

Of course, the use of traditional PR channels is still very commonly used in the Middle East. PR is known as the ‘art of storytelling’; having relevant and consistent content distributed through print media is still a widely appreciated approach by readers, especially in this region. It adds credibility to a brand and creates trust with the audience because it is not a paid channel. In accordance, I strongly suspect that with the new digital trend, the challenge every organisation is going to face will be how to harness the power of both channels. In other words, in 2015 the strength of one’s communication effort will be measured with the success of one’s engagement strategy between digital and print communications.

It is therefore even more important nowadays for PR professionals to keep up-to-date on the trends and opportunities arising daily, to stay ahead of the competition and most importantly, stay relevant to the increasing demand of our target audience. Communications is no longer only about what brands have to say; it is based on what the audience wants to hear. Essentially, the base of the communication is no longer a monologue – it has turned into a dialogue, where consumers are able to give their feedback instantaneously.

Remember that with the shift in power from business to consumer, it is imperative to be relevant. Your content needs to be interesting and engaging to your target, always offering value. Make sure that you are measuring the effectiveness of your campaigns. Reassess, tweak and republish then start the cycle all over again.

Problems with the PR payday

An ever-present issue for PR agencies, Ben Kershaw, Client Services Director at Katch International discusses the problems faced when clients try to escape paying their fees, the lessons learnt in the process and the precautionary measures that should be taken…

People, regardless of their position and company status will often try to take advantage in this industry

Whether you’re a multinational or a boutique agency, the issue of clients trying to escape their financial obligation to you is something we have likely all experienced. In Dubai, this pressing issue is magnified as a result of its fast-paced nature and the ever-changing landscape of company circumstance. Often, chasing payments can consume almost as much time as executing the project the agency was initially recruited for.

When representing a very large client upholding, an agency might not only oversee the client’s presence in a specific country but across other continents, and look after not just their PR, but also their events production and design. This means dealing with suppliers to produce almost all of their collaterals, from business cards to press walls. Suppliers will always require a certain percentage upfront, which can create large cash flow issues when it comes to some of the huge scale events. Sometimes clients follow payment terms, but at times, due to the urgency of the job, suppliers rely on strong business relationships with the agency to proceed without down payment. If, after not being paid a retainer fee, a client’s financial team also refuses to pay suppliers due to lack of a paper trail, this then has potential to completely damage rapport with said suppliers, forcing an agency’s hand to look for new ones to service other deliverables for paid clients until all outstanding payments have been settled.

It’s also important to realise that a previous relationship or friendship with a client will not equate to having the same pleasantries in business; if a personal relationship takes a professional turn, it is easy as an agency to leave yourself vulnerable by easing up on standard protocol and even easier to get caught up in the moment of a great potential campaign. But, when it comes to money, financial teams can be ruthless, often not understanding the customer-facing and sales elements of their business that agencies are trying to support. The personal relationship you have with the client won’t guarantee that they will be able to reciprocate in the same professional manner when it comes to a contracted arrangement. When this occurs, it’s the agency that loses out.

Sadly, these occasions are more frequent than not in recent times. Other than taking legal action – which aside from being against the ethos of many companies is neither time nor cost effective – it then unfortunately translates to swallowing the cost, picking up the pieces and walking away; in contrast to the UK where this matter could be addressed in a small claims court or dealt with through mediation, which would see closure on the case.

People, regardless of their position and company status will often try to take advantage in this industry. Clients are always going to have an ‘off month.’ As an agency, this is something we are all too familiar with. So as a rule, the first service to be cut and the last cheque to be signed is marketing. In a bid to protect us as an agency, Katch’s contracts stipulate both UK and UAE laws. In addition, we have taken steps to allow our clients flexible payment options set out from the beginning in the payment plan.

Extra measures such as adding a clause on intellectual property rights being yours until the contract has been honored are other steps we have initiated. We’ve also made it clear with our suppliers and clients that all third-party agreements must be adhered to or a job will not be delivered.

In this country, reputation is everything and word does spread if certain clients are known to avoid payment. At the end of the day, all we agencies can do is protect ourselves.

Ben Kershaw is the Client Services Director at Katch PR.

Ethics in social media advertising – or lack thereof

Alex Malouf, Chair, Professional Development & Knowledge Sharing Committee at MEPRA, offers his thoughts on the lack of social media advertising ethics – and questions whether brands in the region are risking its reputations and consumer trust for short-term financial gains?

While European and American consumers are benefiting from crystal clear regulations on sponsored social media content, there’s little to no clarity here on the same

We’re awash with social media in our region. Everywhere you go, you’ll see people sliding their fingers left and right, pushing up and pulling down on their smartphone screens. We’re all at it, checking our Instagram accounts, refreshing our Twitter feeds, and posting Facebook updates.

Today we have social media celebrities, people who have become famous through their online activities. There are Instagrammers in Kuwait with over a million followers, Facebookers in the UAE with hundreds of thousands of likes, and Saudi Tweeters with followings equal to the population of Bahrain.

Alongside these social media celebrities we have witnessed the rise of paid posts. Those of you with a keen eye will have noticed how many celebrities online have become more commercial, and have begun to share updates, images and videos promoting brands.

There’s nothing wrong with promotional advertising. Using paid influencer marketing is a common tactic to spread awareness, promote a brand, and to engage social media users across the globe. Online advertising can be more cost effective in terms of measurement and reach.

However, there’s no distinction between an advert and paid-for content. Both involve a payment of some kind by a company for a promotion of its brand or services. Regulators across Europe and the United States have essentially ruled that if money is changing hands, obvious disclosure must occur in-ad. Their reasoning is simple; consumers have a right to know what is an advert and what is not an advert.

While European and American consumers are benefiting from crystal clear regulations on sponsored social media content, there’s little to no clarity here on the same. Consumers here have no authority to turn to or no regulations to guide them on what is and what isn’t sponsored.

There seems to be little eagerness for brands or social media celebrities to advertise what is paid-for content either. This is understandable, as their followers may be less inclined to engage with a post if they know it is sponsored, or even follow a person who they know accepts money for posts.

While this lack of disclosure may appeal in the short term and help to maximise revenues (paid-for posts in Kuwait can fetch up to three thousand dollars per posting), it does nothing to building goodwill and trust with consumers across the region. A lack of honesty and transparency on what social media celebrities are paid to post will negatively affect trust in both the sponsoring brand as well as the celebrity who is accepting the payment in return for sharing the content.

In the US the burden is on brands to ensure that their endorsers, such as bloggers and online influencers) are in compliance in terms of disclosure. Paid-for posts have to include language such as #Ad, Ad: or Sponsored. Even brand posts and shares by a company’s employees have to be clearly labeled to account for the bias.

Either brands can take action and begin to self-regulate, or they can wait for regulators to finally step in and possibly take a harder-line approach to sponsored influencer endorsements. Is risking a reputation and trust, built up over years of marketing, worth risking over a lack of disclosure? I hope the answer is no.


Shouldn’t I be paid for this?

Wondering how you can start monetising your online video content? Margaret Davies, Global Vice President of Global Media Account Management at Brightcove discusses what you’ve always wanted to know but have been too shy to ask…

With the combination of great content, the right platform and an interested and engaged audience, it’s more than possible to start making more bang for your buck when it comes to your online videos

Increasingly, businesses, marketing and traditional media professionals in the Middle East are looking at how video can help connect them with their target audience more effectively, and there are several factors that are coming together to influence this change. According to a survey by Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG), more than 135 million individuals are using the Internet in 22 Arab countries. Most interestingly, 49% of MBRSG respondents watch video clips at least once a day

In other studies, over 60 million young people (15-24 yrs) are going to transition to adulthood in the MENA, according to AMO, and 70% of these entrants are skipping the print versions of media and becoming digital-only consumers, says Strategy&.

In such a rapidly changing reality, traditional communication has to evolve through investing and building strong cross-platform assets – video being the obvious choice due to its impact as well as ability to adapt to traditional and online platforms. But, as this trend continues to grow, it’s important to understand that video not only increases engagement, but supports profitability.

We understand that the idea of monetising content sounds daunting; it’s like the awkward question when you’re out for dinner – who picks up the tab – but rest assured that it’s more straightforward than you would think. Here we’ll discuss three business models where each one works in a different, yet effective way.

Firstly, ad funded video uses payment from advertisers as revenue and often requires no payment from viewers. One of the easier monetisation models to set up; the hard work is attracting advertisers to your content.  What’s the best approach? Advertisers want to find videos that complement the brands that they represent and are more attracted to high quality, professional videos.

Another way to make money from online video is to simply charge people for it, better known as video on demand (VOD).  There are two main forms of paid online video – SVOD (Subscription Video on Demand) and TVOD (Transactional Video on Demand). While VOD is most often associated with entertainment, with high production values such as movies and TV shows, it’s possible to generate revenue by charging people for very specific niche content – for example, you can charge for instructional videos, highly localized news content or business analysis by an expert in the field.  How do you get the most out of VOD?  Make sure you have content that keeps customers coming back for more, either in the form of a video library or recommendations based on previously viewed content.

Finally, there is authenticated viewing. This is the ability to view content on your TV, tablet and smartphones, with all the devices accessing the same content as and when required.  Although it doesn’t always generate a direct stream of revenue, authenticated viewing can be a great value-add for your existing customers to enhance viewing experience. If done well with the right player experience across each device and user friendly log in procedures, authenticated viewing can increase loyalty from your existing customer base and entice new customers.

The growing presence of online video highlights how important this medium is to consumers and customers. With the combination of great content, the right platform and an interested and engaged audience, it’s more than possible to start making more bang for your buck when it comes to your online videos.


Reputation over desperation

While it may be true that an agencies brand is discussed far less than the clients it handles, Allie Holmes, Director at Edelman Dubai, offers her expert opinion on why it is vital for agencies to be aware of their brand reputation and be selective when it comes to representing clients…

Publicity may be what we sell, but that publicity is steeped in relationships, and relationships are built on trust – trust with your employees, trust with clients and trust with the press

Last year, our agency was approached by a public figure about to go through a public criminal trial. Would we manage press and public opinion for the client, the representative asked? No agency is ever in a place to turn down a sure thing, but in this case, there was no debate; the answer had to be no. Not because there wasn’t money to be made, but whether or not the client won or lost in the court system – as an agency, we only stood to lose in the court of public opinion.

Publicity may be what we sell, but that publicity is steeped in relationships, and relationships are built on trust – trust with your employees, trust with clients and trust with the press.

With this in mind, why is it so important that we separate ourselves from clients who are behaving in a way that doesn’t align with our values, or refuse to take them on as clients in the first place?

Because we owe it to our people
As an individual, working for an agency, you should not have to compromise your morals to do your job.

As ‘communicators for hire’, you get the opportunity to work with the very best industries and corporations on offer, the initiatives they want to talk about, the causes they want to support.

Being agency-side allows us to pick and choose those behaviors and mindsets and even industries we will promote and those we won’t. For example, Edelman doesn’t work for the tobacco industry. I find this freedom to decide admirable. It’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed agency-side.

Because we owe it to our clients
If as a client, you’re being represented by an agency that has a reputation for working with clients of questionable morality, you could feel the blowback of guilt by association when things go sour. For many of our clients, ours are the “faces” of the corporation in the pressroom, and we have to protect that.

Finally, because we owe it to our industry
It’s no secret that the field of PR has a significant PR problem. PR flacks are often seen right up there with defense attorneys and politicians. Bad decisions made by one, do impact the whole. We, of all people, should know that best.

Taking on clients who act unethically impacts the trust others place in our agencies – internally with our teams, externally with our media contacts and ultimately with our current and potential clients. Taking on clients (or retaining clients) that impact others’ ability to trust may provide short-term gains, but in the long-term, there are worse things to lose than revenue – when our organisational trust is on the line. When it comes to reputation, we should remember that not all business is good business.