PR Campaigns – The blog

September 27, 2008

Perception of PR Practitioners

Filed under: Sparkle Media — ksorensen19 @ 3:24 pm
Tags: ,

I know that ABC PR recently published a post regarding how PR professionals are viewed and I wanted to delve into that a little further. I recently found a somewhat shocking article that discusses the negative side of PR. The article, The Truth About PR Disasters, discusses the role that PR specialists play in crisis management. However, the article theorizes that whereas once our role involved managing any client crisis, in today’s world PR practitioners are, “increasingly being ‘outed’ as the perpetrators of the catastrophic errors of judgment and ethics that create or catalyze PR disasters.”

In my mind it is astonishing how often PR practitioners are viewed as “spin doctors”. This idea really hit home with me when I was at a car dealership the other day. My mom was talking with a car salesman about financing and during their discussion he asked what I was studying in school and my mom said public relations. His reaction was one of astonishment and judgment. Why would I want to go into THAT particular field? My mom agreed with him right away. It was amazing to me how quickly a car salesman passed judgment on me and my future profession.

The question now is, how do we change the negative image that those in the PR field have? Is it enough to adhere to an organization’s code of ethics, or hope to follow our own ethics? Personally, I believe that the bad choices of a few have lasting effects on the rest of us and it is going to take a lot more than simply making good choices to clean up our image.

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15 Comments »

  1. The issue of negative perception is important (although not the main point of the article you linked). And I am interested in what students think about the subject. However, as you pointed out, we do already have a recent post on this topic: the above notes would have worked better as a comment on the existing post, to continue the conversation. This way, we have more than one discussion in progress on the same topic.

    Comment by drgilpin — September 27, 2008 @ 6:05 pm | Reply

  2. I agree that a few bad examples can hurt the industry, but where in life does this not apply? The job of the PR practitioner is to overcome this. It goes without saying that we must act ethically. At least if you know you are doing what’s right by your client, you won’t be part of the problem, you’ll be part of the solution. What else can you do?

    Comment by asbrooks04 — September 28, 2008 @ 10:24 am | Reply

  3. PR practitioners need to lead by good example in order to reform their perceived image in the media and by the public. Although public relations often has a negative connotation for some people, it gives us the opportunity to rise to the occasion and do the best we can at our job. When I read an article like this one it makes me want to better myself in order to overcome negative perceptions. PR disasters are inevitable in business as well as in private life, but if we ever fall into such a predicament, it’s best to face it with solid ethics and grace.

    Comment by marialinda17 — September 29, 2008 @ 9:48 am | Reply

  4. […] lady” in the Mac vs. PC commercials, this week Sparkle Media points out that in some cases breaches of PR ethics lead practitioners to create crises, rather than manage them. These instances, though relatively uncommon, serve to reinforce popular […]

    Pingback by Weekly roundup « PR Campaigns - The blog — September 29, 2008 @ 6:59 pm | Reply

  5. So, PR gets a bad rap. What industry isn’t without it’s faults? There will always be a right and wrong way to do things. People need to take responsibility for their actions. A code of ethics is a good place to start. Crisis can and will start from a number of sources. PR isn’t always to blame and can, in fact, be the cause in some cases. Personally, I see this as a fact of life and not just a PR issue.

    Comment by davemerenda — September 29, 2008 @ 7:48 pm | Reply

  6. I definitely believe that PR gets a bad rap. I recently had an internship at a PR firm in New York City, and because I was right in the middle of that world I saw first hand how badly people think about PR practitioners. The CEO of the company I worked with and the company as well were known for being very harsh and cut throat and a lot of people did not have nice things to say about them. However, they did not know the truth. The people at that company were very nice and perfectly professional. The best thing I feel, is to know that what you are doing is right and ethical. People that are not in the situation will always talk, and sometimes it won’t be nice, and that’s just a fact of life. I think as long as you and the company you stand for are doing the right thing, and the teachers are teaching ethics to their students, then that is enough. There is always someone who will have something bad to say, just don’t let it get to you.

    Comment by dfishfel — September 29, 2008 @ 10:48 pm | Reply

  7. People will always have their own opinions about public relations and pass their own judgments because of what a few PR practitioners might have done in the past that was unethical. I was explaining to someone the other day what I am studying and when I said PR their response was something to the effect of, “Oh, so you just lie to the media and the public for the company you’re working for.” I found myself angry and tried to argue but also knew that people will always perceive things how they want and it is just important for practitioners now and in the future to set right the PR image.

    Comment by blink8521 — September 29, 2008 @ 11:51 pm | Reply

  8. I think it’s ironic that PR practitioners focus on creating a positive reputation for their clients but have trouble maintaining their own positive image in the public. I don’t think we necessarily need to try to immediately change the image of the PR field. There is an increasing need for PR practitioners and most areas of PR are pretty lucrative. I think that if the money and business is still flowing than there is not too much of a problem.
    In regards to following our own code of ethics, I think that falls under finding the right clients to create campaigns for. PR practitioners should always set a standard for how far they are willing to bend and modify their ethics and never stray away from that.

    Comment by knish21087 — September 30, 2008 @ 12:37 am | Reply

  9. Regardless of the industry, there are always going to be “bad apples.” Typically, these people draw the most attention and have the biggest hand in tainting the perception of the the field. Public relations is no different. It may even be one of the industries that is the most sensitive to this kind of unfortunate contamination of image. I think that it is the sole responsibility of the individual practitioner to hold themselves accountable to the ethical codes of the industry and their own moral compass and not be disheartened by the few “bad apples.” We can only have so much “control” over perception, but we have complete control over our individual actions.

    Comment by kristarogers — September 30, 2008 @ 9:23 am | Reply

  10. I think this is a very sad truth about the pr industry today. Unfortunately, everywhere we turn there seems to be yet another bad perception of a pr agent. Since people think that it is pr agent’s job to ‘cover up’ the flaws of a client, often times they are looked at as deceptive. This however, as we all know, is very cliche and doesn’t fit the job description at all. The only way it seems for pr agents to fix this is to follow the code of ethics written by the PRSA and hope that with time, this false notion will be reversed.

    Comment by cate415 — September 30, 2008 @ 9:32 am | Reply

  11. By reading the comments posted before mine it is pretty obvious we all have the same outlook. We are in an industry that has very bad reputation and I don’t think one person–or a small group (all of us)will ever be able to change that. As long as we are loyal to ourselves and loyal to our clients/peers we will prevail in the end but on a smaller level. As individuals we will be the exception, not the rule to this industry that is looked down upon.

    Comment by lindsaylynch — September 30, 2008 @ 11:59 am | Reply

  12. I too hate when you tell someone that you are going into the public relations industry and they make a face and their view of practitioners is that of a ‘spin doctor.’ I think that in every industry there will be people who do not adhere to the industry’s set code of ethics and they ruin it for everyone else. This makes following ethical guidelines even more important for everyone in PR. Once the guidelines are broken, however, the trust that is lost is hard to gain back.

    Comment by mekelly1 — September 30, 2008 @ 12:15 pm | Reply

  13. I find that most of my journalist friends react to the PR profession the same way. “The Spin Doctor.” I find it ironic how much journalist hate us. Not all, but most think we taint their profession. However, the truth is, journalists would not be able to survive without us. Especially with the limited resources and staff so many of them have today. We provide them with stories, that otherwise they would not be able to have access. It is their job to investigate and fact check.

    Comment by cclark2 — September 30, 2008 @ 12:23 pm | Reply

  14. I totally agree that the perception of PR people is overall portrayed in a negative light and that makes me a little weary going into the industry. Hopefully, both time and perseverance will help change how our industry is perceived. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

    Comment by lbridge — September 30, 2008 @ 1:54 pm | Reply

  15. I have encountered the same experiences as others with people judging and not understanding the field of PR. Many people can’t even fathom how PR is linked to journalism. I find this offensive and again another example of how PR has had bad PR. We need to change the face of PR by following codes of ethics, as we are all representatives of our career field.

    Comment by agilliam — September 30, 2008 @ 3:09 pm | Reply


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