Macher is an old Yiddish expression that, literally translated, means maker, but idiomatically it is far from that. It’s often used pejoratively and refers to a person who considers her/himself a big shot or big-time operator—often pictured as a guy with a fat cigar. It’s not all bad; machers are well-connected, like to put themselves in the center of things, and can be good people to call if you’re looking for an introduction or trying to find the latest news. Hmmm, reminds me of a few PR pros I know. Disclosure: I have, from time to time, been a macher, and it surprises me to say I haven’t minded that at all. I thought about the term after I talked to Jay Baer on Inside PR 3.49. I was interviewing him about his new book “Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help, Not Hype” and keynote at Meshmarketing in Toronto. I asked him about the state of the PR industry, and he said the challenge for PR pros is this: We’re mainly talkers in a world where companies are looking for makers. Makers are creators of content—videos, websites, infographics, white papers, or other sharable social objects. Talkers on the other hand, well, they talk about it, maybe even offer advice or a strategy, but when push comes to shove, they have to outsource the work. It’s safe to say that in the evolving marketing communications landscape, PR firms are competing more and more often with ad, digital, social media, content, and whatever new hybrid agencies appear on the horizon. The industry’s challenge is not only to get clients to think about us, but to think of us first. Putting our creativity where our mouths are Here are five steps we can take right now to get us closer to the maker end of the spectrum:
1. Lights, camera, PR school. PR education must add visual storytelling to its curriculum ASAP, including courses in photography, audio and video production, coding, and online graphic design. Some graduates can specialize in the new disciplines. Everyone else should at least have a basic knowledge. 2. Go DIY. Working professionals must commit to learning something new on their own time. Maybe it’s making a GIF, starting and maintaining a blog that enhances your personal brand, or researching and writing a long-form article. You can do it yourself, find online courses, or enroll in a local program. 3. Redefine the PR industry. We still spend too much time referring to public relations by what we’re not (i.e., not advertising). Compounding this is that many clients hire us primarily to do publicity, but it’s essential we tell our story by demonstrating the value we provide, and how we help clients achieve their goals. 4. Step out of the news release box. The next time you’re about to suggest a news release, try coming up with three other content recommendations to accomplish the same business objectives, just differently. 5. Hire makers. Listen to them, adapt to their perspectives, and integrate them into the fiber of the agency.
Many people across the disciplines have been trained for one skill, have gotten really good at it, and now find they need to master new types of expertise. Let’s take the lead and transform PR from talkers to makers—or from machers to, um, machers—but without the big, fat cigar.
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Are you a talker or a maker? What do you think PR should do to upgrade the profession? Martin Waxman has his own consultancy and is a senior counselor for Canadian firm Thornley Fallis. A version of this story originally appeared on Spin Sucks.