You’ve probably seen the storm that erupted following CBS News, legal analyst, Andrew Cohen’s broadside at Public Relations (and his follow up here) following the “revelations” from Scott McClellan’s new book.
This about summarises it:
Show me a PR person who is "accurate" and "truthful," and I’ll show you a PR person who is unemployed.
There’s been a lot of response (funnily enough) ranging from Frank’s outrage to Kami’s analysis and Shel’s commentary.
PR has always (ironically) had a perception issue.
This is driven by a large number of factors including:
- The breadth of the industry from cosmetics, to agriculture, politics, fast moving consumer goods and technology
- The lack of general understanding about public relations
- The high profile issues with the profession are covered broadly in the media
- There are low barriers to entry into the profession
This obviously isn’t an exhaustive list….
While reading the commentary, I like Shel’s approach:
One method is already underway—it’s for professionals like Todd Defren, Brian Solis, Phil Gomes, Mike Manuel, Niall Cook and hundreds of others to talk about their client work candidly and openly on their blogs. (There’s been a fair amount of discussion lately about whether PR people should shine a light on their own efforts, since it has traditionally been viewed as inappropriate. But the world has changed and social media have made it more acceptable to write about the work you’ve done on a client’s behalf—with that client’s permission, of course.) It would also be great if someone started a clearinghouse site or blog that aggregated cases of PR conducted in a way that would make Cohen and his ilk rethink their assumptions.
We need to be realistic.
Just like real-estate, law, medicine and every other profession, PR will suffer from a tiny percentage of miscreants who do not respect ethics or good practice.
But it’s very important that the majority focus on showcasing how we work, how we help individuals, organisations etc to communicate effectively with their audiences.
It always makes me smile when I hear PR’s critics going on like we’re all in dark car parks brandishing brown paper bags stuffed with dollar bills.
Sorry to disappoint, but my professional life is far more mundane than that!
When I left college there were two things I never wanted anything to do with: 1) PR and 2) Computers.
I’ve spent the last 17 years working with both every single day.
My perception of PR (think: Absolutely Fabulous) was wrong. It’s a fantastic profession, with great people, who do great work.
Poor practitioners are a reality, the trick is to focus on helping people to understand what we do and why it’s important.