PR Campaigns – The blog

February 23, 2009

Marketing is Evil, and PR practioners are Spin Doctors

Filed under: The Fifth Firm — tmpace @ 7:06 pm
Tags: , ,

When people ask me my major, and I answer, “public relations”  some look at me like I just said, “I am majoring in shooting puppies.” I believe the image of public relations and marketing is getting better, but the history of negative feelings toward our field will be hard to change.

In Seth Godin’s Blog “Is Marketing Evil?” Godi, a marketing expert and a well-know author, explains how marketing can be used for evil, but is not evil. He  admits that marketing is powerful and can cause evil, but that is not marketing’s fault. The fault is at those using marketing for evil.  It is the craftsman not the tool, he states. Godin says that marketers should think about how their actions will impact society. He explains even though you may be doing your job, does not make what you are doing right. Just because you can market something does not mean you should.

Godin goes on explain how marketing can be a beautiful thing. How it can encourage people to do or purchase things that will make their lives better. Marketing can be used as positive infleunce for people to make informed decisions.

This article was written in response to a Time magazine blog, where the writer said you would probably never see Godin writing an article about marketing being evil.  Well, Godin wanted to prove him wrong.

Working the PR and marketing fields we will have great power. We will (hopefully) influence many people with our campaigns. OK, I have to quote Spiderman (sorry I know this is so cliche) “with power comes great responsibility.” Overused but true. Ethics in our field are important. It may be tempting to make a million by selling your ethical principals along with your soul, but be the bigger person. We may have clients that want us to pitch ideas. We have to think about the impact this decision would, and decided whether it is ethical or not. In the end we will impact the way people think, and we do not want to be evil spin doctors.

We are not “puppy killing practioners” so lets not have people looking at us like we are. As Godin explained marketing can be something beautiful, and I think that is what we should always strive for.



  1. Marketing can make or break something. Think of the people who advertise cigarettes. They are advertising a product that kills people. Is this ethical? Some people might look at it as a job, while others might disagree with advertising a harmful substance. I think it depends on the person and what they believe in. You should practice what you preach and I think that good PR practitioners believe in the product they are trying to advertise or sell.

    Comment by kmmorten — February 23, 2009 @ 9:20 pm | Reply

    • I completely agree. PR ethics are different for each person. But we should always consider who we are impacting.

      Comment by tmpace — February 23, 2009 @ 9:23 pm | Reply

  2. I think the issue of ethics will always be a challenge for public relations practitioners. This is a field in which it is easy to act unethically, because such behavior is rewarded when it leads to company success, improved images, etc. As students, learning what makes ethical PR is just as important as learning any other basic skills. By monitoring the actions and motives of others in the field, we can learn the keys to ethical actions, such as client transparency and honesty. This negative image of marketers will not change until public relations practitioners begin to demonstrate only ethical behavior. As future PR professionals, it is our duty to work toward changing this image. As a side note, I found an interesting Web site that helps to clarify some of the components of ethical PR.

    Comment by plepkows — February 23, 2009 @ 9:56 pm | Reply

    • One book I read about PR ethics said we should act like a glass house. Makes sure we are fine with what people can see. Thanks for the website!

      Comment by tmpace — February 23, 2009 @ 10:01 pm | Reply

  3. Here is a link to the Web site that helps us to outline ethical PR:

    Comment by plepkows — February 23, 2009 @ 9:57 pm | Reply

  4. Wow that was a really great post by Godin and by you as well. He makes such a valid point about the way marketing is used. Power really does have a big part in it as well. I think the education of ethical standards is so important in the education process of todays student journalists. I know there have been times when I don’t exactly tell people my major with the confidence that they’ll give me that “Great choice!” look, instead I close my eyes and wait for their reaction. But I think that’s something as young journalists that we are in control of. So I say we use the skills and ethical issues we have learned about to alter this misconception as much as we can throughout our future careers.

    Comment by lehanson — February 23, 2009 @ 10:15 pm | Reply

    • What stood out to me in Godin’s post was he was not afraid to say yes some marketing is evil. This always the opportunity to do the wrong thing, and we must choose to do the right. Lets just hope years down the road we can hold onto the ethics we learned as young journalists. I am glad you find ethics as important as I do.

      Comment by tmpace — February 23, 2009 @ 10:43 pm | Reply

  5. Godin is correct when he says marketing can be evil, but I feel that the only reason marketing and P.R. are focused as being more evil more often has to do with the subtlety involved. There are plenty of other jobs that can be both good and evil, but people rarely speak about it. The way that news organizations disseminate certain information can be classified as “evil” depending on what the organization is either withholding or disseminating. I guess because marketers and P.R. practitioners are in charge of the information given to their targeted audiences, it makes it that much tougher to convince the audience of what is and isn’t evil.

    Comment by Mickey Siegel — February 23, 2009 @ 11:29 pm | Reply

    • You are correct. In Godin’s blog he talked about the various jobs where marketing was evil, like selling cigarettes to children, and in many jobs the have the choice between right and wrong.

      Comment by tmpace — February 24, 2009 @ 7:50 am | Reply

  6. Marketing and PR are two completely different things and it is said when poeple are uneducated on the differences between the two. It is said that PR practicioners get stuck with these bad reputations as spin doctors and soul-less. Like Mickey said above almost every job has good and evil aspects to it. Unfortuntely for PR proffesionals we haven’t been able to fully change our image. (kinda weird since we are in the business of enhancing peoples perceptions and changing their minds)

    Comment by allund — February 23, 2009 @ 11:49 pm | Reply

    • I would have to disagree a little. In our field marketing in intertwined with many of our campaigns. What people thinking about marketing is important because it effects what they think about public relations. I agree that is it weird we cannot change our image.

      Comment by tmpace — February 24, 2009 @ 7:48 am | Reply

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