In Defense of PR
19 August 2009
Schuyler Brown had an interesting blog posting on the HuffPost yesterday… http://www.huffingtonpost.com/schuyler-brown/enter-the-golden-age-of-p_b_260078.html.
In short, she argues that PR is essentially dishonest, and the emergence of social media will somehow spawn an increase in dishonest PR.
The evidence she uses to advance this thesis?
The current debate over healthcare reform, where both sides have distorted the facts, demonized the opposition and inflamed the emotions of people – at the expense of rational, reasoned, fact-based dialogue.
To be sure, these politicians, spurred out my political consultants — are driving an “end justifies the means” approach.
But to paint the entire PR profession with the broad brush of dishonesty because of the conduct of politicians and political consultants is baseless and no more productive than the behavior of the protestors at the health care town calls accusing the Obama administration of being Nazis and socialists.
Ms. Brown’s assertion is sort of like saying that because of a single crackpot doctor peddling false hopes and bogus cures, we must conclude that all doctors are inherently bad, and indeed the practice of medicine is evil.
Now I am not going to stand up and defend the honor and behavior of everyone who has ever worked in public relations, because I know that there are the good, the bad and the in-between. However, slamming the entire practice is wrong in both substance and spirit.
The fact is that organizations – be they public companies, government agencies, not-for-profit enterprises, schools, hospitals, etc. all recognize the importance of building trust through effective communications – whether it be through paid media, earned media or tweets. And they are smart enough to reach out and seek help when they need it. That’s what we do.
Moreover, the better ones in our business understand the need for practicing our trade with a high degree of ethics, transparency and honesty. Why? Because if we were to do otherwise, our reputation would suffer. And frankly our reputation is the most valuable capital we possess. So we guard it carefully.
Now, with respect to the notion that the emergence of social media is spawning a golden age of PR, Ms. Brown may be on to something. The emergence of the internet and social media, the tectonic changes confronting the traditional media, and the changing behaviors of consumers in the way they gather and process information all point to the need for a better understanding of how organizations can adapt and most effectively communicate with the people important to them – be they customers, shareholders, employees or others.
I spend much of my day trying to make sense of these trends and helping clients to navigate these new paths.
If this means a golden age for PR, it is because the market is driving it, not PR people.