War and Peace in PR

By Carole Bersillon, Intern

How aggressive should PR campaigns be? That is the question that pops into my mind after reading a Business Insider article about Ronn Torossian, owner and CEO of 5WPR. In the article, Torossian is described as the “most intense, in-your-face PR man”, “brash and aggressively outspoken” and “the bad boy of buzz”. Its agency advocates for being “a in a way that clearly resonates with clients looking for a firm staffed with type a-plus personalities, a BS-free approach, and results from day one.” The war/aggressive lexical references above depict a frightening vision of PR and its people, also present in the collective imaginary related to advertising, marketing or lobbying (think about the heartless “Mad Men”, or the unscrupulous Nick Naylor from Thank You for Smoking).

Is PR an aggressive world?

From my own experience at Fusion, the answer is NO. I can see Charlie, the small and red haired dog running through the office or rolling on his back, while the team is listening to Christmas songs. I am eating a great cosmo cupcake that we brought back from a short break with the other girls. And we almost defeated Bob at foosball last week. Definitely, NO.

Aggressive PR can be a damage-control strategy in crisis communications or to address rumors. It can also refer to lobbying activities, attempting to influence decisions or to unsettle a competitor.

Besides I was taught in my PR classes that effective PR rely on building long term and trusty relationships with media contacts and the industry. So what do media and PR professionals mean when they talk about aggressive PR campaigns?

The dictionary indicates that “aggressive” means belligerent, hostile with synonyms as attacking, combative, offensive, threatening and disruptive (I already talk about disruption in a former post.) But aggressive also signifies “very involved in activity” and “desiring success”. That is what aggressive PR conveys: constantly pitching, using all sorts of media (social, print, TV, radio, events…) to make more of an impact and assure visibility for our clients and avoid “going dark”. Aggressive PR is a behavior and an a form of ethics: always try to push your clients’ name, products or people in the news. On the other hand, it is also investing heavily in PR to secure awareness and business opportunities for a company as being visible all around which is often associated with good health.

PR can be pushy and disruptive and assimilated to a constant effort. The field can be a daily fight against tons of competitors in the news but also requires sensitivity to target the right contacts, as well as empathy to keep in touch with them and get their trust. So, be aggressive, but gently.

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