Since I started in PR back in 1991 one of the constant issues I’ve seen discussed and batted around is the low barriers of entry to this profession. The phrase used to be “anyone with a typewriter and a phone”.
Although the professional bodies do a lot of good work there just doesn’t seem to be an appetite for regulation.
I personally think this is one (and only one of many) of the reasons for PR’s poor image. There’s a lot of bumblers out there with no ethics. Astroturfing is a great example. People adopting false identities, creating non-representative representative groups. It’s about as far away from “conversation” as you can get.
There’s some good news. Trevor Cook and Paul Young have kicked off a new anti-astroturfing initiative.
Of course this raises the question, can we stop astroturfing? I fear the answer is no. The very people who run these “campaigns” (and remember typically these campaigns aren’t just B2B PR, normally they are issue of public interest that affect you, your family, friends etc.) are the same people who would never support this. But that doesn’t matter IMHO.
What matters is that PR people are taking the lead in calling out this practice. I hope the next stage will be to publicly attack examples of astroturfing as they emerge.
- PR Bloggers Urged to Fight Against Astroturfing – Trevor Cook
- Join the Astroturfing Campaign – Paul Young
- Join the campaign against astroturfing – Shel Holtz
- Online Behavior & Conduct – Mike Manuel
- You don’t actually need to bottle stupidity [February 2005] – Tom Murphy