PR is a very hierarchical industry. There is set chain of command where the role you do changes according to your position, which is the same in pretty much all jobs.
At the bottom end you have the Account Executives who do the majority of the outreach and engagement, stamp licking and envelope posting, and day to day odd jobs that make an account run smoothy.
You then have varying degress of Account Manager. They do a small proportion of the outreach and engagement, and tend to focus their time on making sure the tactics that are getting the account to run well, are work effectively.
There will then be an Account Director who is responsible for developing the right strategy which will lead into choosing the most appropriate tactics. Likelihood is that they will do very little outreach at all. [UPDATE: thanks for the typo spot Mike!]
It goes on, but in essence, the higher up the food chain you go, the less actual PR you do, and the more time you spend writing documents about how PR should be done and looking to bring in new business.
To me, social media makes this way of working, unworkable. Social media is more skills based.
I might only be an Account Executive, but I have a fundamental understanding of the way that Twitter works, for example, and I will have a good idea of what the right tactics will be to make a Twitter campaign effective.
Or, I might be an Account Director who’s built up a credibility within the blogosphere , yet now in my new role I find that I can’t connect with these people in the same way as I used to.
I think we need to shift away from this approach to a specialist-led way of working, and the more conversations I have with my peers and colleagues about this, the more I think we should act upon it.
If you have an individual within a team who is a natural networker, and knows how the community they’re about to interact with works, let them get involved with planning the tactical approach and then handle that engagement.
If you have someone who is great with numbers, but not so good with people, get them involved with the management side of things and help them to develop their strategic thinking.
There may be a member of the team who’s into all the new tools and technologies – get them playing around with them, learning how they work and become a vital part of the entire planning process.
I see job titles as a way of categorising people into how much they’re getting paid and how important they are. To me, it doesn’t matter how important you are if you don’t understand how micro-communities on Twitter come together and then disappear in a matter of hours. It also doesn’t matter to me if you’re the finest networker in the land but you couldn’t plan a 6 month campaign for toffee.
Each person is an individual and has their own individual strengths. The current system of controlling what level PR pros is at is false and doesn’t truly reflect their worth to their team. By all means, a structure should be in place, but a structure where individuals with different skills are utilised and brought in to add expertise or experience.
The current model isn’t getting the best out of the people within it.