I thought we were past this

I’m sure many of you have seen the Mac vs. PC commercial where PC has hired a PR person to “smooth things over after that whole Vista problem.”  If you haven’t, here it is.

Ever since I first saw this commercial I have contemplated the reputation of PR professionals.  We have come a long way from the days of being “spin doctors”, but does society see it that way?  According to this commercial, I would tend to think not.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a funny commercial, but I can’t help but worry about the reputation we have in society and amongst other professionals we need to create relationships with, like journalists. 

During the first couple of weeks of my first semester at Centennial College, we were asked to track a journalist for our media relations class.  We would also receive a prize if we contacted our journalist and were able to get them to give us a tip about how a PR person should best approach them.  The answer I received back from my journalist was shocking to say the least.  Here is the response I received, “Sorry to disillusion you but……I see PR people as a barrier to be cleared.  If they come to me I usually run in the other direction.  If they get between me and someone I want to talk to, I usually jump over them.  Their interests and mine are complete opposites.  If someone at Centennial College has told you that journalists and PR people work together, you have been sadly misled.” 

Now I won’t say who this journalist was, but needless to say I do not read his column anymore.  To write something like that to a brand new student I think is very tactless and he could have said the same thing in a much nicer way.  Something like, “I don’t feel that journalists and PR people have the same goals and I suggest that PR people tread carefully when trying to approach me as I am suspicious of their motivation.  My tip to you would be to be honest and careful when approaching journalists.”  But that must be the PR person coming out in me. 

This comment still bothers me to this day though as I am concerned about my reputation and that of others in the business.  Any PR professional I have met has been very nice and helpful and many seem to have good relationships with journalists.  Many are creating good relationships with their publics through honest communication and by opening up the methods of communication through corporate blogs and sponsored events.  So why are there still so many out there who see us as people who cover up the truth and sugar coat the negative?  Is it as simple as stereotypes are hard to break, or is there some other reason this reputation still exists?

What is your experience with this issue?  What does society think of PR people?  Do we need to work on our reputation?

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2 Comments »

  1. The stereotypes regarding people in public relations really bother me. But as we are nearing the end of our program, I don’t really think we have much to worry about when it comes to the reputation of PR people. Personally, I think it is lack of education that makes people so suspicious of the motivations of PR people. If they truly understood everything that we do, I think they would respect us a lot more.

    I remember when you got that e-mail back from that reporter and I couldn’t believe how so many other reporters e-mailed back similar responses to other students in our class. At least there were a couple of people who received really positive responses. I think that either a negative past experience or some sort of stereotype leads to this love-hate relationship between PR people and journalists, but hopefully that will change.

    I, for one, am really excited about getting out into the business world and proving the stereotypes wrong!

  2. Rick Weiss Said:

    I don’t want to focus on the stereotypes and negative portrayals. If somebody cracks a joke when I introduce myself as a PR professional at a party, I’ll just chuckle and tell them “I work hard to not fall into that stereotype.”

    We should focus on our own personal reputation, and let the profession’s rep follow our lead. I know there’s a lot of deuchebags in PR – I’m happy to say that our class is wicked. Not a single one that I know of!

    I met a guy from another school yesterday at an info session who is very much a deuche. Everything he uttered in the whole hour was either aimed at making himself sound smart, or kissing ass. He asked about the award they’d won and what makes their agency great.

    The VP in the session had a great answer (and I’ll paraphrase): they work hard, they do a good job, but they won the award because they put together a good application package that year. It doesn’t mean they’re better than the many great agencies in the city, and somebody else will probably win this year. That’s honesty, and good PR.


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