PR is a great career to be in but it is sometimes a job equivalent to toilet cleaning. Sometime you get shit dropped by someone who was careless and also seems to have eaten all the taka taka from Dandora dumpsite. Sometime you get to work with shit droppers who are clean enough not to perch on toilet seats and spoil your day.
And in the process, we have insane PR practitioners. Some are born insane, some acquire insanity along the way and others get insane by just joining a firm which has one or two major accounts and without proper controls, they grow horns, beards, air in the armpits and even worse, some spikes on the skin. PR practitioners should be the soft landing point between a corporate, individual or just and organisation with the public.
The public is not limited to journalists, bloggers and news disseminators. The public encompass all including the watchmen, cleaners, hawkers and street urchins who will have a dealing with your client. So it is wrong for many PR people to assume that they should only treat journalists well and every other person with arrogance as long as they can buy advertising space and create an imaginary situation of all-is-well.
I have had crazy experience with PR newbies, Agency owners and just workers who really does not know how to take criticism. I am one person who will never try to please anyone for short term favors and that means that I am more likely condemned to being a bad boy dealing with the common inexperienced PR agent out there. And to this end, I have come to the conclusion that there are three type of PR Agents in Kenya.
The Umira Kager Clan
This is the group which of agents who work from an agency they believe is the best in the market. They will always use the mob mentality to dilute any bad news about them and correct their mistake. Their strong point is on size and not on individual practitioners. It will always work with them because they have “prefect” who will make sure that everyone pulls in the same direction.
Press Release Pushers
This is a group which either does not understand their clients needs or the client is so used to one system that it will not allow for a PR person to suit a story to the local market. The agency here will most likely be reduced to a Press Release pusher where releases with no local angle and benefit will be sent all over. AfricaPractise is one such agency. They boast of having a thousand “international clients” but 90% of what they chunk out is irrelevant to the local journalist. You see the releases on MultiChoice, InMobi, Google and CNN and you realise how useless some agencies can be to journalists.
The Big Boss Chihuahua
This is found in almost all agencies and especially those who don’t have proper training mechanism. Training matures them but if there is no in-house or external retraining, they will think that because the agency is owned by they mother’s sister’s son then you have them to beg for any news item you might require from their clients. This breed is purely going through a stage which is sometimes worse than adolescence. Imagine you holding them to task over a story which is not adding up and instead of seeking clarification from their clients, they will threaten you with removal from a “media list”. We need each other in the news field but I assure all PR agents out there that 99% of the time, bloggers don’t need PR agencies.
Even if you give bloggers freebies, he/she should never be pressed to do a product review. Even if the product was delivered by a shirtless Eric Omondi. What would be better news than writing about a shirtless Eric Omondi?
PR in Kenya is on transition. There are media houses, I agree, like Standard Group, Nation others which has journalists who will demand money for advertising to put a story up. I have heard complaints from a three companies which cannot have their stories on KTN and Standard because they can’t give the “brown envelope”. But because the definition of a journalist is also changing, the PR in Kenya is changing and so threats like “I am going to remove you from the KFC free Chicken queue” simple don’t wash.
There are PR agencies which are good and would do their work but there are others which can’t simply perform or they have agents who soil their names just for the ego.