Five Guys Standing Around a Hole

August 20, 2010

The pounding. The drilling. When will it stop? Apparently this is what progress sounds like, which would be fine if it wasn’t right outside my office window. For the past several weeks the City of Seattle has been busy tearing apart the street between 1st and 2nd Ave on Cherry Street. I’m not sure what they’re doing, and even if I asked I’d likely not understand since my mechanical ability stops at DRAINO. But they’re doing something and apparently when whatever it is, is done, things will be better.

What Are They Doing?

Ever since the crew showed up I’ve found myself staring out there – not knowing what I’m looking at other than a giant hole, and often without any thoughts at all- just staring. Today was one of those days – but today I had thoughts which of course lead me here, to you. My view this afternoon is of 5 guys standing around the giant hole doing nothing other than looking deeply into the abyss. To their left was one guy with a shovel working feverishly. I’m not sure what he was doing beyond digging, but he was committed to his task despite his 5 friends who weren’t doing a thing. Watching this scene made me reflect on a scenario I hear often from companies looking to make an agency change; about how their PR firm brings 4 people to a meeting but only 1 does the shoveling. (Sound familiar Microsoft? You’re paying for all those silent bodies at the table.) I find it so odd when people are brought to meetings, only to sit there with no contribution. Well almost no contribution; they do a good job with the flight-attendant  “bye, ba bye, bye – good to see you.”

A new report from private equity firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson predicts that, by 2014, spending on PR will reach $4.4B, up from an estimated $3.4B this year. Of course this is welcome news, although I can’t help but wonder how much of the money will be wasted on the PR equivalent of 5 guys standing around a hole. I’m also deeply concerned that at the same time more money is going towards PR there are a fewer “real PR people” able to actually do the work. Hopefully along with the increased budgets will come an intensified focus from clients on holding their agencies accountable; demanding that everyone on their PR team be a key contributor.

Have you ever been stuck in traffic, where 3 lanes are brought down to 1, and by the time you get to the place where the work is happening there are more guys just standing around than there are people doing the work? And when you see that don’t you wonder – “what are they doing”? Sadly this nonsense happens in conference rooms across the country everyday, except the “workers” aren’t wearing orange reflective vests and likely didn’t bring their lunch in a mini-cooler. Just my thoughts for the day.

Howie

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