Why PR has a bad reputation

I can’t help but notice that people really don’t like public relations professionals. And it sucks because all we try to do is ensure that everyone is happy. Don’t get me wrong — I’m sure there are a few (maybe more than a few) bad eggs out there who soil the PR name. But the rest of us want to do our jobs in peace. So let’s back up for a second. Why do people hate us so much?

A few reasons:

  • They mistake us for reporters.
  • They think we lie or exaggerate the truth.
  • They think we’re lazy.
  • They think we get paid too much for doing such easy work.
  • PR tends to be associated with that publicist who keeps Justin Bieber out of trouble.
justin bieber scandal
Is this even news anymore?

With all of this floating around the industry, I thought it might be best to start from the beginning.

What do people think we do?
After browsing through a couple of articles, I’m seeing a recurring theme here. Most people believe that we plan events, lie to the public and cater to celebrities. Click here to see other hilarious thoughts people have about us.

What do we actually do?
According to PRSA, public relations is a “strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” In simple terms, PR professionals build relationships with people, and we leverage those relationships to develop brands and give our clients and customers what they want.

Can anyone do public relations?
Absolutely not. Just like everyone can’t be an actor and everyone can’t be an engineer. It takes a wide variety of strengths to work in PR: strong writing skills, strategic thinking, communication skills, social media expertise, SEO experience and much more. Planning events and speaking on camera are only a fraction of the job.

Why don’t people trust us?
There’s no one answer to this. Some people think that we lie or “spin” the truth all the time. Clients think we’re lazy. And reporters think we’re terrible writers. No matter where we’re standing, there are people who will always think they can do our jobs better than we can. And it doesn’t help that scandals like Enron’s bankruptcy, Toyota’s defect cover-up and Charlie Sheen’s HIV controversy were all aided by some type of public relations professional.

Is it our fault that people don’t trust us?
In part, yes. PR professionals work 40+ hours per week to maintain the reputation of their organization/client. In that case, why is it so hard for us to maintain our own reputation? We have to do our part in showing the public that we aren’t a bunch of money-hungry liars, but that we truly have our stakeholders’ best interests in mind.

How do we start to build this trust?
For those who follow all the rules, just continue to do your job well, and allow others to see your light shine. Always use your PR skills for good, and don’t let negativity affect your motivation. For those who know they can do better or for those who constantly have to be reminded of our core values, I have just a few words for you: GET IT TOGETHER OR FIND A NEW CAREER.

What are your thoughts on PR and how society views it? Let me know in the comment section below!

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2 Replies to “Why PR has a bad reputation”

  1. I’ve encountered LOTS of PR professionals who know their clients’ stories well. Exceptionally good PR people know any counterpoints to a narrative, and can address those with facts/research. The high-echelon PR pros can see around corners and can go toe to toe with me on any counterpoint I happen to fire in your direction. Reporters love that!

    But as I said, normally it’s the PR standouts who can do all that and exceed a reporter’s expectations.

    I respect many aspects of the PR world. And no, you guys aren’t terrible writers. Although as far as headlines, you guys could be sharper there, but so can everyone. In other words, you guys hardly ever do us reporters any favors in the headline department. Yes, it’s our job to create headlines, but still. Where I have beef with the PR industry is the old-fashioned thinking which the ubersenior PR pros hold onto, the ridiculous infighting you guys have with marketing (when y’all SHOULD BE working together https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141025233937-325631429-specialties-shouldn-t-go-away-but-silos-should-and-what-does-a-cubs-yankees-world-series-have-to-do-with-anything?trk=mp-reader-card ) as well as the (usually) pitiful digital/SEO awareness. This is just one example: http://buff.ly/1JSahaV There are others.

    I was shocked to hear the founder of Waggener Edstrom, a global PR firm, say her firm is awful at SEO. I happen to agree and laugh when she said it, but sheesh, why blurt it out? Fix it and quit saying you’re bad with anything related to numbers and not words. Nowadays, data-savvy competitors will suffocate you if you hold onto this type of thinking which I suspect comes from PR uberseniors.

    If you respond, I’ll continue.

    Like

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