Notes from the PR Underground

There’s been a lot of talk online over the past couple of days about Claire Cain Miller’s recent New York Times article (“case study” might be a more accurate description) on the state of tech PR. It’s an interesting and somewhat short sighted, look into the professional (and personal) life of PR veteran Brooke Hammerling. Unfortunately, like many articles that offer a peek into the world of public relations, there’s a fair amount of misconception of what a PR professional actually does on a daily basis.

Hammerling is a successful publicist, and it should be obvious to anyone remotely familiar with PR that there is more to her process than setting up meetings and “whispering in the ear” of industry insiders. I’d argue that Hammerling is at a point in her career where her main role is to make high-level connections and leverage the relationships she’s built over time to benefit her agency and its client roster. Miller, in my opinion, uses this profile to generalize tech public relations with a set of enduring PR flack stereotypes – name dropping, schmoozing at expensive parties and the consumption of delicious green Jolly Ranchers (wait. what?).

There are a lot of aspects related to my profession absent from this article. Where in the story does Miller talk about the hours spent drafting and perfecting press materials, developing messaging, and creating six month tactical timelines? What about tailoring pitches to target journos, constantly researching the competitive landscape, providing strategic counsel, media training, or event planning?

Maintaining relationships (“whispering in ears”), proving your worth as an experienced professional (name dropping) and attending industry events (expensive parties with Aerosmith) are all important parts of being a PR professional, but there’s a lot more work that goes into being a successful PR person. (honest!)