Musings of a PR Professional

A grim look at PR refuted

Whew! It’s been a busy week this week, and although this post is pretty delayed, I certainly didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to share my thoughts with you on USA Today‘s article, How public relations helps steer opinion and the news. The article is labeled by USA Today as a “Special” and is supposedly a review of the book PR: A Persuasive Industry: Spin, Public Relations, and the Shaping of the Modern Media. However, the article is more like an animal than it is a book review. What the author, Seth Brown, focuses on is essentially ragging on the PR field and its practitioners.

There are a number of reasons as to why I am simply not a fan at all of this article, but I would like to focus on two topics discussed by Brown in particular:

  • Lying is OK in PR: “A poll of insiders revealed that most don’t feel telling the truth is a duty of PR,” is a direct quote from the article. First, who are these “insiders”? And second, what poll? It is my firm belief, and also something that has been ingrained into my mind in the PR classes I have taken thus far, that lying is the biggest DON’T in PR there is.  Public relations is about establishing fruitful, long-term relationships with people, so what PR practitioner in their right mind thinks that it would be okay to lie to the people they depend upon so fiercely? This paragraph casts a horrible light on PR and its practitioners- that they are liars of no conscience.
  • Anyone can do PR: Brown writes, “Perhaps the most alluring thing about being a PR consultant is that no formal training is required: no certification, no universally acknowledged test, no courses offered at many prestigious universities (although some colleges offer PR studies). ” While this fact is largely true, the implications of this statement is not. Essentially, the article makes it sound as if every PR practitioner out there is a hack who has no idea about a. What they’re doing or b. What their purpose is. This is simply not the case. I read enough blogs and have been presented with actual PR examples to know that PR is done well everyday.

In conclusion:

I think it’s pretty ludicrous to make the sweeping generalizations about public relations that this article does. Granted, there are PR practitioners out there who are not necessarily beacons of ethics or integrity, but those people are the minority. Most practitioners genuinely care about their job and clients and work extremely hard and are very good at what they do. So what if it’s harder to measure PR efforts than it is to measure advertising or marketing ones? That doesn’t mean PR is any less legitimate, it simply means that good public relations works without people realizing anything has happened at all.


(Not to mention the barrage of angry comments left by people at the bottom of the page after the end of the article- you should take a look at them, most of them have very positive, valid and true points about PR.)


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Comment on “A grim look at PR refuted” « PR Reflections pingbacked on 9 years, 4 months ago
  2. The week in student blog posts « PRinciples pingbacked on 9 years, 3 months ago


  1. * amaute says:

    Wow! This is crazy. I totally agree with you Erin. 1.) I don’t think it is ever acceptable to lie and 2.) training in PR is obviously necessary since some people don’t understand what it is really about. I think you put it perfectly.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 4 months ago
  2. * Brian Camen says:

    I have to disagree with Brown’s statement where he implies everyone and anyone can do PR. Having a knack for writing and studying PR (either case studies or in school) will allow you to take the first step into the world of public relations. It requires a lot of skill and strategic planning to do PR.

    On the other hand, I can see where Brown is coming from. There are plenty of PR pros who just don’t get “it.” I can’t describe what “it” exactly is, but “it” is the PR pros who give the rest of us bad reputations by off-topic pitching, blind pitching and have no regard for other people.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 3 months ago

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