Stand up and fight for… errrr… Public Relations?

As you are probably aware Public Relations is a euphemism.

Whenever someone is caught doing something underhand, whenever a diaster strikes, whenever someone’s ethics are called into question you can bet that the two little letters that will appear in the reportage and/or the discussion are P & R.

PR’s image problems are no secret.  The profession is hounded by the dual problems of ignorance and a small number of high profile “practitioners” who bring the profession into disrepute through their behavior and their practice.

For the unwashed masses it doesn’t matter that the vast majority of PR people (many of whom have nothing to do with the media) are hard working, stressed individuals who try their best to communicate honestly on behalf of individuals, groups or organizations in an ethical manner.

Nope.  Once those two little words pop out, a whole pandora’s box of preconceptions flood into the minds of the uninitiated.

If you want a graphic illustration of this, just read the comments posted to Jay Rosens much maligned recent post. ‘Cover up’, ‘spin’, ‘they’re all the same covering each other’s backs’ etc. etc. etc.

Oh please.

For too long I believe that PR people have let this perception problem slide.  It’s up to individuals and industry organizations to address these misconceptions.

Shel Israel, who no longer practices PR, has a great posting on this very subject.

“I was in PR for more than 20 years, and am proud of the work I did. The majority of people I knew and worked with were good and honest people who, if anything, were guilty of trying too hard to please both clients and the media. PR people generally counsel clients to come clean on controversial news.  Get bad news out and get on with it. Tell the public your sorry, when you’ve done wrong and make sure you repeat the mistake again. Cover ups never last–so come clean up front. Yep, we had our shady characters and over a beer and in private I’ll share a few stories with some of you. Every industry has liars. Every industry industry has people who open their mouths and display ignorance.”

I have been working in PR since 1991.  It’s an exciting, rewarding career that requires hard work and dedication, but it’s worth it.

Let’s put a line in the sand and from this point on address the ignorance and the prejudice.  If there is justifiable cause for concern at the practice of our peers then let’s highlight it and criticize it, but let’s stop letting the unjustified criticisms float by.  

We are not doing ourselves any favors.