Speaking Up for PRSA

The PR industry took an unfair hit from legal analyst Andrew Cohen of CBS related to former White House Press Secretary’s new tell-all book. In his report, Cohen accuses PR professionals of making a living on untruths. He even calls out PRSA’s ethics:

 

Apparently, an industry the very essence of which is to try to convince people that a turkey is really an eagle has a rule that condemns lying.

The Public Relations Society of America states: “We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent…” This clause strikes me as if the Burglars Association of America had as its creed “Thou Shalt Not Steal.”

Show me a PR person who is “accurate” and “truthful,” and I’ll show you a PR person who is unemployed.


PRSA wrote a response to Cohen that warrants repeating as many times as possible:

 

Dear Mr. Cohen,
Regarding your commentary on today’s CBS Sunday Morning, the Board of Directors of the Public Relations Society finds it imperative to affirm the professionalism of public relations practitioners and to take exception with what we regard as a misguided opinion. The PRSA Code of Ethics, to which all members pledge, embodies a strict set of guidelines defining ethical and professional practice in public relations. Professionals who meet the Code’s standards stand in stark contrast to the simplistic, erroneous characterization of the profession you presented.

Contrary to baseless assertions, truth and accuracy are the bread and butter of the public relations profession. In a business where success hinges on critical relationships built over many years with clients, journalists and a Web 2.0-empowered public, one’s credibility is the singular badge of viability. All professionals, including attorneys, accountants and physicians, aspire to ethical standards, and public relations professionals are no different, always striving for the ideal.

For public relations professionals, engaging diverse and often skeptical audiences requires top-flight skills in communications, creativity and even persuasion, but a trust once lost cannot be regained. Unemployment, contrary to your opinion, is reserved for the professional who has lost his or her credibility.

Read the full letter to Cohen on PRSA’s Web site.

We are encouraged by the immediate response by national PRSA and the opportunity to reiterate the ethical standards to which we should all adhere. It is unfortunate that high-profile situations become media fodder that is then used to paint wide brush strokes over an organization with professionals that seek to reach out and be effective communicators.

 

The changing landscape of Public Relations

This post first appeared on the nextcommunication blog on May 9, 2008

I am proud to be a public relations professional. Some outside people might scoff at the idea of being in PR. They (like many people I would guess) have an antiquated idea of public relations.

There is a great song by Jimmy Buffet, Public Relations off of the Don’t Stop The Carnival album about Norman Paperman, a Broadway press agent who is in need of an awakening:

Up every morning, out every evening
Hustling for headlines, that’s what I do
Table at Sardi’s, grappling for gossip
Working the press for a mention or two
I never acted like some nervous rookie
Right form the start I was hot as a cookie
I was a numero uno
What a debut

Chorus:
Public Relations, Public Relations
Boozing and schmoozing, that’s what I do
PR’s my vocation
And I’m a sensation
Public relations

Such hullabaloo

Chorus:
Public Relations, Public Relations
Ego inflation, that’s what I do
Isn’t it wonderful, isn’t it fabulou
Public Relations, such hullabaloo

While humorous, the song’s lyrics say what many people may think about PR.

We should not forget the bread and butter of our craft (especially in media relations). However, with the changing communication landscape PR professionals need to be better equipped at integrating social media.

So what does it mean to practice PR? According to the “bible” of public relations, Cutlip, Center and Broom’s definition:

Public relations is a management function that seeks to identify, build, and maintain mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and all of the publics on whom its success or failure depends.”

Mutually beneficial relationships

Relationships should be nurtured and grown over time. As a PR professional, I need to seek out and adapt to ways of reaching my organization’s community.

I like the idea of getting rid of the word “users” and replacing it with “guests”.

I agree that we need to be more efficient.

I think Jason Falls is on to something when he asks “Can Advertising Truly Be Social?”

And even though he specifically targets agencies, Todd Defren’s post Five Thoughts on the Future of Public Relations should get the rest of us thinking.

I once read the following:

Don’t confuse revolutionary change with evolutionary change.

In this case, the evolutionary change must come from the PR practitioner. Keep up or get left behind.