June 6, 2012

No it’s not a typo.  PRaggage (pragage) is a word I just made up, unless someone before me has used it and it’s a total coincidence. Anyway until someone challenges me I’m putting a stake in the ground on this one. Now that we’ve established whose word it is, let’s get to the interesting part -the meaning. I’ve arrived at PRaggage by mashing the words PR + Baggage to create a term that illustrates the mental, emotional, and financial pain thrust upon CEOs, CMOs, and other marketing folk by shitty PR people.

I’ve become pretty good at identifying when a PRaggage storm is about to hit. Like looking up and seeing ominous gray clouds moving closer – you know rain is on the way. In this case the precipitation comes in the form of parables that revolve around central themes including bait and switch, unfulfilled promises, and overcharging. I can tell it’s going to “rain” when we get calls from execs who talk about their failed attempts at PR, how they really don’t want to commit to an agreement beyond a few months, or how they are not comfortable unless there is a guarantee.  These poor damaged folks -what happened to them? Oh wait…I got it. The story goes like this:

Once upon a time there was were three little PR people; a VP, a Senior Account Executive, and an Assistant Account Exec. In the beginning everything was perfect – like Popsicles and unicorns.  Enthusiasm was rampant and the client felt loved. But then – the big bad wolf named Change showed up and ruined the party. Different faces came and went, the team became chronologically younger, coverage dried up, and excuses became the norm. And just as the client was about to huff and puff, the VP made a dramatic entrance to make everything okay. A renewed focus was promised complete with weekly meetings and strong execution of deliverables.  Sounded nice – didn’t work.

Over and over I hear this story, or a similar version, from companies looking to engage with PR but still feeling the burn from their last go around.  I suppose blame can be placed in multiple directions, but certainly not on me; I just met these people. Still we and other great PR pros are asked to carry the baggage left by lame PR people. Sometimes the PRaggage comes in the form of requests like “we’d just like to do a project” or “since our last PR engagement wasn’t positive we’d like you to complete this 126 page RFP by next week” or “we know you charge X but we want to pay Y because of our previous experience.”  Seriously?  So because your last agency sucked we should reduce our fee? Awesome idea – makes total sense!  PRaggage.

The whole PRaggage situation is unfortunate for all involved; the inadequate PR people who caused it, the client who owns it, and the agency asked to carry it.  Maybe this calls for a page out of the airlines playbook -perhaps we should charge for PRaggage. Except in our world you get one bag for free but we charge if you carry on (and on and on and on…).


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