The Importance of the Title


Let's be clear - It's been a while since I've ranted and this is going to be a good one, but bear with me, I promise there is a point to it all. SO:

PR isn't dead, and content marketing isn't new. While we're at it, PR isn't promotion or (personal) management either. And good business development is so much more than sales.

I'm sick of all the talk and labeling to the contrary. Call things what they really are, own what you do.

Every field has areas of focus, new and shiny ways of doing things. Crazes. In technology it was the cloud, now it's the Internet of Things (or everything, or if if you're like our team at Rollercoaster Digital - the Internet of Agents). In online marketing it is all about "inbound". In food it's all organic, whole foods. Whatever you do, whatever industry, there will always be something new that everyone wants to get on board with.

I don't have a problem with that. I think it's good, it keeps entire markets evolving, challenging what they're doing next and generally trying to be better. The problem is when parts of the market don't keep up. They start to make claims about being things they aren't, which leads to the "X is the new Y" and "X is dead, only Y matters now" type claims.

Sure, you say. But so what?

Well, this is where I start to get angry. Too often, these claims are convenient labels to give consumers the impression of something that isn't really the case. I have two examples, from different sides of the equation, that highlight the way changing the way something is referred to can alter a whole industry.

1. PR

Public relations is probably one of the most misconstrued fields there is. It has a reputation for being underhanded and anything but genuine. The truth is though, effective PR has to be opposite. It's a strategic field, based on bringing all the things a company does together and helping "tell a story." There are two things that really annoy me about people talking about PR lately:

Content Marketing

Content marketing isn't new. It is traditional, good PR done primarily online. It is about engagement and genuine, original content, which good PR has been about for decades. Just because the content is on YouTube or Facebook doesn't make it different.

To the businesses saying they are cutting edge because they do "content marketing" - STOP. You're PR companies, the fact that you're able to do it online means you are keeping up, not cutting edge. Be honest with yourselves and your clients, and get back to doing good work, instead of trying to be innovative when you aren't.

Promotion and management

This one really gets me. It's common with artist, musician and model managers now to say they're a PR company. No you aren't, at best you're publicists and fit in to someone else's PR strategy; at worst, you do promo bookings. I understand that personal management and booking agency became dirty words. There's a reason for it though. They were screwing over their clients because they were chasing the big commission dollars. Calling the same practices PR isn't really fooling anyone - it's just confusing what people think of a much bigger discipline.

At Coaster, we work with individuals like we work with businesses, strategically and as partners. Not based on a media scorecard and bottom line. The key difference is simple - long term brand vs short term attention. I'm happy for any personal "PR" agency to contest this, on the proviso that you share your methods publicly and we have a discussion. My opinion is based on those I've seen, I'm sure there are good ones, and I'd really like to meet them.

To the rest: Call yourselves what you are. Clean up your own field, stop tagging on and tarnishing other people's.

2. Business Development

Ok. Sales became a dirty word. I get it. But really, this is very simple. Sales is a function of business development, it works to it, it isn't all of it.

Head to any job listing and look for Business Development Managers - I guarantee every listing has a criteria something like "at least 3 years sales experience". Why? Because that's all they're really looking for. It isn't business development, the company has just given a grand title to a senior sales manager. Business development is so much more - it should be long term, strategic and partnership focused. We all know it costs more to gain a customer than to retain one, so business development should be focused across sales, marketing, product and development. That's a big role for a sales rep.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not anti sales. It's vital, and I'm terrible at it. I would happily hire as big a sales team as I can afford. But I'd also hire a BDM, to oversee that team, and work with PR and marketing, and do market research to work with product developers. And most importantly - to grow the business based on opportunity and strategy, not pure revenue.

Sales focused business development will never look at a marginal market and say "it's the right thing, but not because of numbers". That's not good business, and it doesn't encourage innovation.

I know this might seem trivial or unimportant - but it isn't. Job titles and names influence responsibilities. What we consider important in a role is what is focused on by the business, if we're leaving out key areas of responsibility for the sake of inflated titles the business suffers. Ultimately, when that spreads, we lose it from a field of practice. Then we lose it all together from the market.

My request is simple - if your job has a tarnished reputation, don't jump on something else. Be the difference. Be better. Be a leader and work to fix it. Show you're more than the quick buck.

Andrew Snell

Director at

Andrew brings a range of skills and experience not often found together. Working simultaneously across different industries and disciplines he has a unique view of the business landscape. He has high level experience in marketing and public relations strategy and delivery, live production and technical management and design and has worked in and with many high profile SMEs. Andrew founded and runs Coaster Group and is a keen, serial entrepreneur - making ideas real is his passion.

Comments (1)
Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt, Owner at Startup Chucktown

I think there is an over emphasis on distraction. Titles are restricting. Do what you do and do it to your best ability. Don't let yourself get hung up on needing a fancy title. Don't allow your title to cause confusion for your customers. At the end of the day it usually comes down to one of two things. Wanting to seem important or being important. I know what value I can add and my customers will see that I am valuable to them. At the end of the day, my title doesn't matter, the value I've added does.