10 frightening PR monsters

These communicators can make your skin crawl with the horrors they promise to deliver. Here are several types—along with how to overcome them.

As Halloween draws near, scary movies and haunted houses abound—but the scariest creatures can reside in your office.

These terrible types of communicators can create the worst type of horrors, including nightmarish pitches, zombie-like presentations, reputational disasters and way too many selfies.

Here are 10 monsters to battle:

1. Pitching Poltergeist


Similar to apparitions that appear and throw items around in haunted houses, these ghostly PR pitchers pop up in reporters’ emails to virtually throw any half-hatched idea at the wall to see what sticks. Though most don’t cause permanent damage, the non-news, embargos and promotional announcements they hurl are often distracting and annoying.

Defend yourself by deleting and blocking.

2. Crisis Gremlin

Don’t be fooled by any mogwai appearance: This monster will wreak havoc on your communications plans and throw a wrench into your reputation management strategies—even if you heed the warnings to avoid bright lights, keep it dry and never feed it after midnight.

This creature works fast, upending your messages and inciting a firestorm within minutes from a careless comment or online misstep. You’ll have to respond quickly to catch and banish.

3. Unethical Vampire


The soul-sucking demon will drain your organization of trust and morality, one unethical decision at a time. They hide under the cloak of darkness and often begin their reign of terror with small steps down the path of immorality, such as not disclosing a conflict of interest in an interview or ignoring HR processes which are meant to keep a toxic workplace culture at bay.

The only way to banish ethical vampires is to bring them into the light. They might scream (or even burn), but anything less will keep the demon around and fed by your reputation’s lifeforce.

4. Overconnected Chupacabra

This vampiric creature is way too connected to technology and social media. Sure, communicators have to be increasingly more social media savvy, but that doesn’t mean you have to Instagram every meeting and hashtag each client idea. Though the Overconnected Chupacabra often misses out on conversations in favor of retweeting and liking Facebook posts, you can easily become prey with a selfie moment.

A digital detox will usually slay these monsters, but until then: Hide.

5. Frankenslides

Ragan.com’s Russell Working wrote:

This monster, assembled by a mad scientist in an attic laboratory, has been spotted by Carlin Twedt and other fleeing villagers. Calming his nerves with a swig from a rescuer’s whiskey flask, Twedt, who is Ragan’s marketing and social media manager, stammered that the creature was last seen producing interminable PowerPoint presentations with unreadable fonts and no narrative or design continuity.

However, the speaker version of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster doesn’t have to ruin your next event. From tips to write and polish your speech to avoiding common presentation pitfalls, the right training can turn this lumbering lug into an energized and charming orator.

6. Self-promoting Siren


This monster’s song might sound magical at first—until you’re lured to your destruction.

Forgetting the “relationship” element to PR, Self-promoting Sirens are only concerned about their goals, campaigns, clients and aims. They might pretend to be interested in networking or forming a mutually beneficial partnership, but as soon as a reporter asks for additional information or another PR pro calls in a favor, these monsters have already moved onto their next conquests.

It can be hard to resist their calls, but when you hear these scary PR pros, close your ears and move on to the next opportunity.

7. Ghost of Deadlines Passed

Unlike Charles Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas Past, this ghoul won’t show you what shaped your current situation. This ghost won’t show you anything but excuses for nonexistent proposals, PR copy or PowerPoint slides—despite promises to the contrary.

If you can’t cure your problem with this apparition through one-on-one meetings and leadership motivation (along with consequences for not following through), you might have to smudge your cubicle to ward off this ghost that can delay your efforts.

8. Jargon Goblin


This fiend is a fan of corporate speak and can often be found inserting copious amounts of PR gobbledygook in press releases and corporate announcements. Its favorite terms include, “synergy,” “gamechanger,” “innovation” and “thought leadership.” The creature can appear everywhere there are corporate goals overlaid with storytelling efforts, but often can be seen on the shoulders of executives asking to alter their quotes into something no person would say with a straight face. Fight this monster with your keyboard—or a big red pen.

9. Tone-deaf Troll

This monster sits in brainstorming sessions and helps produce or approve potentially offensive PR and marketing messages. The creature’s work can be seen in fallouts such as Heineken’s “Sometimes Lighter is Better” ad and the firestorm over H&M’s digital ad featuring a black boy modeling a sweatshirt withthe phrase, “Coolest monkey in the jungle.”

These trolls often lumber back under their bridges after a crisis has started, but might also be heard yelling phrases such as, “It wasn’t my fault” and, “We all thought it was a good idea.” You can battle their inane ideas with questioning and criticism, so don’t be afraid to speak up the next time one threatens to clobber your campaign.

10. Home-Haunting Supervisor


Working wrote:

Just when you thought you had successfully fled the horrors of the office, this nightmare ghost emerges after dark with texts, phone calls and non-urgent emails to be followed up on your own time. Once it has you in its claws, it is all but impossible to escape.

A more benign version of this spirit can be warded off with the phrase, “Is this something we can discuss in the morning?” Its evil twin, however, cannot be thwarted except by a stake through its heart. Solution: Turn off the phone through which this being channels its presence.

What monsters would you add to this list of terrifying PR pros?

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