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The Dark Side…?

“Oh, I see you moved over to the dark side too…”

Why is PR considered the dark side by former journalists? And why is agency considered the dark side by in-house? And why do the writers of any Star Wars film fail to to provide a convincing reason to cross to the dark side?

As far as the last question is concerned, The Empire must have one hell of comms team – they attract so many recruits on the back of such repeated and spectacular failure!

I wonder if they use an agency or in-house? *makes note to drop introductory email*

The title of this blog comes from a brief chat I had with a former journalist colleague who now, like me, works in public relations.

It’s part of our industry’s vernacular. I’ve said it myself, inwardly cringing every time, “Ah, I see you’ve crossed to the dark side too…”. While I’m confessing to awful patois, I once had to take a day off work to sit in a darkened room after saying, “we’ll touch base soon!” I TOUCH THE “BASE” OF NEITHER MAN NOR WOMAN!

10948923353_075a22eeb3_oMy career path is not untypical of our industry. Started as a journalist at a weekly title, moved to a daily, jumped clumsily into in-house, got a bit better at it, decided to try my hand at an agency, immediately lost hair, gained wrinkles, developed an ulcer…standard path, well trodden.

“I see you’ve gone from poacher to gamekeeper,” was the phrase that paid when I swapped journalist notebook for PR…erm…notepad, and invariably followed by the “dark side” comment.

It suggests there’s something underhand, unethical or even downright evil about our industry. It’s been a while, but if memory serves, in Star Wars, those on the dark side were the bad guys, right? What’s bad about good communications?

My first in-house role was at a council, my second at the now-defunct regional development agency and lastly at the region’s largest business organisation. Never once, in any role, did I feel like I was pushing any sort of wicked agenda, counter to the forces of good.

If anything, these roles were bound, tied and padlocked by strong ethical codes (yes, even One North East). Organisations that could improve the quality of life for people and children across a county. Then onto another with a similar remit, but this time working for the good of the region and finally, helping remove barriers to growth and lobbying for more support to help businesses succeed – all noble aims and nothing remotely “dark” about any of it.

Everything was transparent for taxpayers, cabinets, board members, councils, members etc. to examine, should they wish to.

Maybe it’s because we know, and get ready for another time-honoured idiom, “where the bodies were buried”? Well, we tend to know any bad news before everyone outside the organisation we work for does, but that’s just good business practice – I would advise any firm, public body or organisation to inform their employees of any changes (for better or worse) before they receive a tweet from a mate about it.

8705318368_b0a04427dc_oSo, with over ten years in PR under my belt and a fully paid-up member of the “dark side”, I was surprised when, upon my move to agency life with Creo, a PR industry pal quipped, “Oh, you’re moving to the dark side are you!?”

For God’s sake, how dark can I get? At the moment I’m clearly somewhere between series-finale Walking Dead and Nick Cave’s mid-90s output.

So, agency is darker than in-house, then?

Working in-house, I always had the view of agency life as a sweat-shop where a multitude of clients received precious fragments of your time, while days were filled with meetings and evenings with convenience food and frenzied bashing out of copy on a laptop into the wee small hours…and it is totally like this – sometimes!

But it’s certainly not “dark”!

I loved in-house, but agency affords a creative freedom you don’t get operating within the constraints of an organisation. Clients choose to work with Creo – we bring dynamism, ideas, hard graft (into the wee small hours) and, if clients request it, we can become part of their in-house teams temporarily or place someone long term. In short, we get shit done!

Now, I’m not doubting the dark side also “get shit done”, but I like to think if we were working with them, we’d steer them away from boasting about (yet another) Death Star and focus on its success in recruiting committed young apprentices (Stormtroopers) and their ambitious future leaders programme… I’d call it “Darth of Talent” or what about “Sith Stars”?

Lego Star Wars – Emperador image by Fernando Bueno

Bryn Littleton

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Louise Bradford
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