Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

You horrible manipulating PR people…

In an article which can be filed to that folder entitled: “It says nothing to me about my life”, Luke Johnson in the UK Daily Telegraph “exposes” those horrible manipulative PR people who soil the common man’s newspaper with their dirty underhand tricks.


First of all, my personal belief is that for the vast majority of PR folks (>98%?) their daily job is as far removed from Johnson’s thesis as they can be.  The majority of PR people struggle every day to help clients to get their message out and communicate more effectively with their audiences though a variety of media from the press to newsletters etc. This isn’t exactly deep throat territory.

There are industries where PR people attempt to wield more control (Politics and Entertainment are two examples that spring to mind) over the media agenda.  And there’s no doubt that they are sometimes successful. 

But to brand the entire PR industry as a collective of manipulators who are trying to fool, cheat and lie to the general public is a load of tosh.

On a related note.  Surely it is up to journalists to expose shoddy PR practices.  After all, it is the journalist’s audience that is affected by such deceptions.  Journalists represent the filter between what the PR people want to promote and what reader’s receive.

Every week I hear horror stories about the entertainment industry theatening to withold access to certain celebrities should the magazine not conform to their wishes. It seems that these magazines are so desperate for circulation that they typically agree. Personally I’d like to see these magazines take a stand. Publish these “threats” and lead with front page stories about how “Celebrity X” threatened them. That might put an end to this nonsense.

These are the parts of our industry that give us all a bad name. They are many people’s perception of Public Relations. And as PR people know better than anyone, Perception IS reality.

My job isn’t about rough-handling journalists. I have had differences of opinion with them of course. But I have never stepped over the line in over thirteen years of media relations.

I am sick and tired of this conspiracy theory. Here’s a few realities:

1) Consumers are more sophisticated today than at any time in the past

2) The Editors of a magazine are responsible for the published content of their magazines.  That is their value. Should they tarnish that value by allowing PR people to manipulate them then they no longer deserve the patronage of their readers.

3) Spin doctors and A-list celebrity PRs inhabit a different world to the hundreds of thousands of practitioners who work hard to help clients to communicate better.

4) The sooner these “PR” people are exposed the better for everyone involved.

5) PR has increased in popularlity because organizations have realised the importance of good communication.

“With the expansion of the media industry, PR has moved out of the shadows and become a central part of the corporate world. Globalisation, advancing media technology and the rise of activist groups have all enhanced the status of PR.”


Robb Hecht and Trevor Cook both have comments on the opinion piece.

Written by Tom Murphy

June 15, 2004 at 9:41 am

Posted in General

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