When Brian and I were writing our book, Putting the Public Back in Public Relations, a large part of our focus was to identify the issues in PR, to motivate professionals to tackle challenges in the industry and to move forward with a new approach. As we sorted through our research and had numerous conversations with experts, both in our industry, in social media, the complaints were all similar. PR lost its credibility and it was time to build back the integrity and respected reputation of a 100+ year old industry. The more we talked to people and reviewed blog posts, tweets and comments surrounding the concerns in our industry, we realized that the problems existed for a long time. Today, social media along with the ability for anyone to become a content producer highlights these pressing PR issues and propels them into the spotlight.
An excerpt from our book explains the current situation and how we need PR for the PR industry.
Often PR practitioners must defend themselves and the industry before they can “sell it.” PR has joined (for reasons discussed previously) other industries prone to continuous criticism: the auto industry (especially sales), real estate financing, and the perennial whipping boy, law. Our job is to adapt to the new world of influence, teach others around us, and, in the process, do a little PR for the PR industry. By doing so, we can fix the very things that spiraled PR into a state of crisis in the first place. If you polled those decision makers responsible for managing communications strategies about how they characterize PR, the following common themes would undoubtedly emerge:
- PR just doesn’t “get it”
- PR relies on hype and spin to “sell” stories
- PR professionals are handlers for those who know what they’re talking about
- PR uses stunts or events to generate excitement and attract attention
- PR spams our messages to contact lists assembled by searching keywords in databases, without considering the preferences of those on the databases
- PR places greater emphasis on the tools than on relationships
- PR looks at customers and influencers as their audience instead of people with individual preferences
- PR professionals don’t do their homework
- PR runs away from metrics
This list is the “anti-PR” and it certainly does not represent the many credible PR professionals that I know and work with today. Whether it was a few or many who contributed to this reputation, it’s great to know that we’re all working together to change this image. I recently received a news release from PR News announcing their efforts to raise the relevance of public relations. The release stated:
“- Underscoring the relevance of public relations to drive marketplace success, influence ideas and manage reputations, PR News has rolled out the industry’s first-ever advocacy campaign touting the power of public relations. The “It’s the PR!” campaign’s main message is that PR is a major driving force, albeit an often unrecognized or dismissed area of the marketing mix.”
It’s great that professionals and PR organizations are banding together to face the issues and to reinvent our industry. There are hurdles to jump over and a lot to learn. We may make some mistakes along the way but together we can contribute to a more knowledgeable and influential class of PR professionals.