Monkeys can do this

Eaon Pritchard, Sputnik Agency

PR agency Porter Novelli’s derailed Twitter competition to find a member of staff makes the whole industry look bad because it legitimises the view that anyone can develop a social media strategy, argues Sputnik’s Eaon Pritchard.

The cliche of “social media strategy” being the domain of the hapless intern is a cliche for the simple reason that it is still very common. And my guess is that this was behind the #SocialCV kerfuffle this week around PR agency Porter Novelli.

The agency ran a ‘job ad’ via Twitter, in order to hire an account director. Applicants had to tweet their ‘application’ as a cute one-liner and tag it #socialcv. Predictably the hashtag got hijacked and turned into a joke.

Stunts such as this one really mean that the joke is on us, as a whole communications industry.

A quote from Don Draper in season two of Mad Men that came immediately to mind.

In this scene the young (and still aspiring) copywriter Peggy Olsen glibly described one of her ad concepts to Don with the clarification that “Sex sells”.

Don retorts: “Who says that? Just so you know, the people who talk that way think that monkeys can do this… they can’t do what we do, and they hate us for it.”

To those outside looking in, we all look like those monkeys that Don Draper describes.

If social media PR, and digitally-driven comms in general, are going to continue to have any credibility in business then we need to do much better than this.

Finally towards the end of the day some grown-ups at Porter Novelli intervened and were able to flip it and save some face.

But leaving children in charge of the shop is bad strategy.

And, in general, the idea that an industry publicly communicates that a candidate able to manage a clients business is likely to reveal themselves by their ability to tweet something funny, doesn’t say much about the likely quality of the thinking that clients will be paying for.

In psychology they call this the ‘effort reduction framework’ and attribute substitution – a human cognitive bias which; enables us to answer difficult questions by substituting the original question with an easier one.

This process is useful when choosing one kind of baked beans over another, but choosing candidates to guide a client’s business seems to me to be something that requires a bit more critical thinking, or else it’s true.

Monkeys can do this.

Eaon Pritchard is strategy director of digital agency Sputnik Australia


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