With so much emphasis on Public Relations as “spin,” only used to make bad situations appear better than they are, I found an interesting post about Public Relations being used to contribute to the public good. On the PR Studies blog, Richard Bailey discusses his attendance at a police public relations conference. As Bailey says, these PR practitioners work everyday on crime reduction and don’t have to go chasing headlines. He discusses some of the work that was impressive to him, such as a broadcast journalists video of a victim with fireworks burns. The video received thousands of hits when it was uploaded to youtube. In my opinion, PR is constantly used in ways to contribute to the public good. Many times, these uses of PR are overlooked. Somehow people emphasize the ways in which they think PR was misused or abused. Do you think PR is used frequently enough for the public good? If so, why is it not shown in this light and what could be done to change the public’s perception of PR?
November 7, 2008
October 2, 2008
Today’s lecture really got me thinking about ethical PR v. not-so-ethical PR. Now, I didn’t say unethical PR because I’m not so sure that it is. I think that some PR campaigns or messages may be a little too far from the ethical standpoint and the line begins to blur. When we discussed in class the practice of astroturfing on behalf of a particular client’s cause, the film “Thank You For Smoking” was brought up. It got me thinking about the ethics of PR and tobacco. Later, when I was watching TV, I saw the commercial with two moms talking about high fructose corn syrup from the Corn Refiners Association. Is it really ethical to try to turn around the image for an ingredient that has had such a negative stigma for so long? Was everyone just simply wrong about high fructose corn syrup all along, or is it possible that the same thing that happened years ago with cigarettes is repeating itself?
I went to the website at the end of the commercial, Sweet Surprise, and found a fact sheet on high fructose corn syrup. The facts all seem credible to me, but is that the “spin” that the PR professionals want us to believe? It makes me wonder if the PR people believe in the cause or only the benefit of their client. Should we expect to see Truth campaigns attacking the Corn Refiners Association like they do the tobacco companies?
If you at a future job, were asked to develop a campaign about something that people digest/inhale and you weren’t sure of the health effects, would you do it? Is that ethical PR or simply not-so-ethical PR?
September 15, 2008
JMC417 students have explored quite a range of topics this past week, as they dip their toe into blogging. Cast Communications looked at propaganda, which tied into last week’s classroom discussions as well. How can we keep PR from devolving into propaganda, fulfilling the low expectations of public relations critics? ABC PR continued in a similar vein. Both teams cited videos by PR Watch. The Agency posted on the related topic of credibility.
As I mentioned in comments, I think the Center for Media and Democracy (the source of PR Watch) does some important work, and I sometimes teach from their books. However, they only present one side of the argument, and often fall into the ideological trap of equating any form of advocacy with propagandistic bias. Considering the importance of the public information role played by PR practitioners, it’s important to critically evaluate each case on its own merits. Throwing out the baby with the bath water does a disservice to the public at large, as well as the profession.
Sparkle Media broached instead the issue of international PR, which we’ll be discussing in class this week. As a matter of fact, one of the readings comes from the case book they cite in their post. They frame the question as a matter of “the evolution of PR,” which can be construed in a few different ways. Are they suggesting that social responsibility is the latest trend in public relations? Or that other countries are somehow “underdeveloped” in terms of their PR approaches? The latter view is certainly problematic, but the post itself doesn’t elaborate on the term “evolution” in the title, so we are left to wonder.
Metis PR focused on personal brand management and professionalism. Students such as those in JMC 417, all seniors who will soon be on the job market, need to be particularly aware of the cumulative effect of their online presence. Those who have maintained MySpace pages, are active on Facebook, keep (or simply comment on) blogs, or participate in online communities under their own name, should take a look at what kind of impression they may be leaving with the public. Tallfore talked about another aspect of professionalism: the ability to make time for important commitments. This is always a challenge, in any profession.
Finally, I posted about the PRSA challenge to the US electoral campaigns of both major parties, inviting discussion about the utility of such a strategy. At this point, it seems that most people who have commented on this topic feel that it is more of a stunt than a useful way of associating PRSA, and by extension the public relations profession as a whole, with ethical behavior. They have also expressed skepticism as to the extent to which the campaigns would benefit from accepting such a challenge.
Ethical issues are always messy.