Today I had the pleasure of venturing out of my comfort zone. Rather than chewing the fat with a fellow representative of the PR industry as is my way, I had the pleasure of an early morning coffee with one of the advertising industry’s finest, Will Humphrey. Will is a planner with Lowe, and we had a life affirming canter around many of the challenges facing PR and Advertising.
As I travelled to our rendezvous at London’s Monmouth coffee house (not Roy’s Rolls) on the No. 21 bus, I had set to thinking how I might sum up my thoughts on the state of our industries. The ease with which Will and I discussed our industries confirmed an analogy that came to me on the top deck of that bus.
If you are someone who has not yet started their career, the choice facing you as to whether you follow a path towards PR or Advertising is akin to that facing you when it comes to sexuality. Society is all to eager to know – “are you gay or straight?”
It is as if there is no ‘in-between’ or alternative answer, yet we know the reality is very different. For sexuality, it most surely is at least a question of ‘shades of grey’ (or hopefully, something a little more colourful than that). For the two professions, the interesting developments are happening at the edges, and in-between, with arguments over the terrain, most notably digital media. However, in both sexuality and professional life, we are still forced to choose: ‘gay’ or ‘straight’; ‘PR’ or ‘advertiser’. You are either one or the other, and that decision ‘brands’ you for life. The decision may dictate your lifestyle and your contacts, but it may not sum up who you are, and not always lead to the best or preferred outcome, whether that be communication solutions, or personal relationship.
Just as society is becoming more tolerant towards sexuality, communication is increasingly looking like a ‘grey area’. There is plenty of bad PR out there, employing botched attempts at creativity and one-way promotional techniques lifted from advertising. Equally, there is plenty of hackneyed advertising attempting to use public relations methods, but not getting the lift-off they might through the embrace of two-way symmetrical communication, or the concept of ‘reputation’ rather than that of selling.
Perhaps the future is not PR or Advertising. Unless you want to come a cropper, perhaps the future has to be transgender? (Apologies for the terrible pun – absolutely no excuse)
There is a lot of common cause out there to share and expand.