Home > Measurement, PRSA, Strategic public relations > Public relations needs a PR campaign

Public relations needs a PR campaign

As part of my morning routine, I check the feeds from a Google Alert for the term “public relations jobs.” (I set it up a couple of years back when my employer was going through a budget crisis!)

The alert gives me a good read on perceptions about public relations, the often-misunderstood profession in which I serve.

In between the links to articles quoting PR spokespersons relaying information about layoffs or — increasingly, thank God — hiring, you usually get several stories about a PR “move” or “stunt.”

They give the impression that public relations strategies and tactics are nothing but fluff designed to distract people from the truth.

Some even quote so-called experts putting down a leader or organization for employing public relations practices such as town hall meetings, appearances in the media or memorable slogans.

They must have forgotten their history lessons. Was the Boston Tea Party a PR stunt? Was Thomas Paine’s Common Sense a bunch of fluff? Was Don’t Tread on Me a meaningless slogan?

Public Relations gets a bad rap in some circles. I guess that’s our fault.

I’m glad organizations such as the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) have taken steps to address the misconception.

PRSA offers an Accreditation in Public Relations (APR), which consists of oral and written tests. I have had mine since 1998.

In our APR study, we memorized this definition: “Public relations is a management function which establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization the publics upon whom its future depends.” (Wording not exact,but close. It’s been awhile.)

As Grunig, Grunig and Dozier say in Excellent Public Relations and Effective Organizations: “…the value of public relations comes from the relationships that communicators develop and maintain with publics.”

Katie Delahaye Paine writes in Measuring Public Relationships: The Data-Driven Communicator’s Guide to Success: “Healthy relationships pay off in reduced legal fees, lower turnover, higher customer loyalty, and greater efficiencies. And bad relationships are costly in the extreme.”

Thanks for giving me a little time to share something that’s been in the back of my mind. I usually try to report best practices here, or at least something I’ve tried and turned out to be a worst practice. Or maybe a review of a book I’ve read.

If you have any thoughts about public relations’ image, please share in the Comments. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

  1. February 27, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Thanks Mike for raising a very important point. I agree that members of our profession have a shared responsibility for correcting these common misconceptions. Over the years I have seen too many job posts under the public relations category that included everything from telemarketing to retail sales. Moreover, I think there is still a general misconception that PR stands for Press Release. Most people do not understand what a comprehensive, strategic communications plan entails.

    Fortunately the Public Relations Society of America has added a section to its Web site highlighting the Business Case for PR to address this issue.

    While this is a good start, I think it’s important for all of us to also point out that true public relations professionals do not engage in spin, misdirection and unethical conduct. Moreover, we advocate for truth, accuracy and transparency as part of our good counsel to clients.

    Now that traditional media markets are shrinking and more people are getting information from online sources and WOM, the need for honest, two-way engagement and active listening is greater than ever. No profession is better poised than ours to understand and participate in this evolving media landscape.

    • mikeboehmer57
      February 27, 2010 at 5:49 pm

      Thank you for your comments Beverly — and for sharing PRSA’s Business Case for PR. Gary McCormick of PRSA mentioned it when he was in Cincinnati in January. I’ll be sure to let more people know about it.

  2. March 4, 2010 at 10:28 am

    A few years ago there a PSA was aired as part of a anti-smoking campaign, which I believe was part of the STAND Campaign. It stood out in my mind because it made a statement about PR that really irked me. At the time I was finishing my undergraduate degree in public relations and spending a great deal of time advocating to family and friends the value of that degree. So many people think we are just a brood of vipers. The comment made regarded tobacco companies and was embedded in a dialog about what they said about their products. The line they used regarding the companies was “they must have had good PR” or something of the sorts. The most irritating element was I was watching a PSA tied to a campaign managed by a firm that specifically called out its own discipline. We all know ‘everyone needs PR’, but the statement robs the profession’s image by implying deceit instead of relationship management.

  1. March 13, 2010 at 10:50 am

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