Public relations being hurt by public’s cynicism about business

There were more than a few cringe-inducing moments in last night’s diatribe against public relations on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC. It is illustrative of the populist sentiments of the moment fueled by the tsunami of bad economic news and unfortunate business practices.

I hear and understand what Ms. Maddow and others who are raising their voices in criticism of investing in PR are saying. She is not alone by any stretch. Chicago Mayor Richard Daily thisweek took steps to cancel 11 PR contracts with the city. His administration had come under criticism for wasteful spending and PR was the poster child.

It is important that we as a profession listen to these scathing critiques. It is clear that there is a difference between what we believe we do and what the public believes we do. That is a fact.

So what did Rachel say? Take a look:

 

Rachel Maddow does her best impression
of Keith Olberman

Well, at least I’m not part of Burson-Marsteller! I’m sure they didn’t like to see their brand linked to virtually every bad thing that’s happened in this decade.

Michael Cherenson, who heads the national board of the Public Relations Society of America has written on this subject as well in his post, “An Ill-Considered View of AIG and Public Relations,” on the PRSAY blog.

“I…doubt very seriously that AIG is engaging public relations firms to soothe the taxpayers’ souls, or portray the company as just another innocent victim in the current economic meltdown. My guess, as it would be in any crisis, is that the reputable and highly qualified public relations firms working on AIG’s behalf are tasked with explaining what happened, what AIG is doing to fix it, why such steps will be effective, and why those steps will prevent future such occurrences. Only then can the process of rebuilding AIG shattered image begin.”

Even with the laundry list of “evil” that Maddow read, public relations can play an important role — not in seeking to manipulate or distract attention — but in helping an organization understand how it needs to change in order to rebuild trust. We help organizations align what they do with what they say they do. And we provide a clear understanding of what the public wants and needs from them so they can make the necessary adjustments in their attitudes and behaviors.

In times of trouble, organizations have a tendency to turn inward, which is almost never in the best interests of their communities. Public relations can be a catalyst for positive change and greater openness. How do we get that point across in an era of growing cynicism and distrust?

Using Wikis In Marketing And Media Relations

This is cross-posted from PRSA member Kay Colley’s Community blog. It is her presentation from the Best of the Southwest Communicators Conference last weekend. The conference was put on by the Texas Public Relations Association and PRSA Southwest District.

Wikis are really good tools to create community. Far better than blogs because they offer a more open environment and an egalitarian approach to participation. Check out this SlideShare presentation and let me know if you agree.

Go to Kay Colley’s presentation wiki.

The Nuts and Bolts of Twitter Presentation

This is cross-posted from the Next Communications blog:

Here is the Twitter presentation for the Best of the Southwest Communicators Conference. The conference was put on by the Texas Public Relations Association and PRSA Southwest District.

As promised to the attendees, here is the presentation:The Nuts and Bolts of Twitter

The session went well. Unfortunately, we got a little side tracked a few times and the timing was a little off. I hope the attendees take a moment or two and check out the final few slides. Thanks go to my partner in crime and co-presenter, Terry Morawski. I would also like to extend a special thanks to our volunteer from the session (@mayday08) who set up her profile live for the group to see.

Let me know what you think especially if you were able to attend the session.

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USA Today book review slams public relations ethics

This post re-printed with permission via Dan Keeney, APR:

I have not seen the book, “PR: A Persuasive Industry: Spin, Public Relations and the Shaping of the Modern Media,” but I already hate it. So did USA Today, which featured a review of the book today.

I’m not one to normally judge a book without reading it, but I’ll make an exception in this case. Any book about public relations that includes the word “spin” in the title has a huge strike against it. You see, “spin” is a derogatory word that suggests that we twist the truth or distract people in the practice of public relations. It’s not a good thing. And it is not reflective of what public relations practitioners do.

So I agree with USA Today’s ultimate assessment of the book today:

“If you are looking for a book to conclusively answer your PR questions, keep looking.”

Now for Seth Brown, who writes The Rising Pun and penned the USA Today review of the book. I have sent Seth an e-mail requesting that he cite the source of the very damaging claim he makes in his review.

“A poll of industry insiders revealed that most professionals don’t feel telling the truth is a duty of PR.”

Umm. Say again? I am knee deep in public relations issues and research every day and I’ve never heard of such findings. I hope Seth responds, because that is interesting information.

The Public Relations Society of America requires every member to abide by the PRSA Member Code of Ethics, which was most recently revised in 2000. The preamble to the Code notes the primary purpose of such rules:

“The level of public trust PRSA members seek, as we serve the public good, means we have taken on a special obligation to operate ethically.”

The Code clearly lays out the common values that guide a public relations counselor, the second of which is HONESTY.

“We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.”

The first of the Core Principle described in the PRSA Member Code of Ethics is “Free Flow of Information,” which states:

“Protecting and advancing the free flow of accurate and truthful information is essential to serving the public interest and contributing to informed decision making in a democratic society.”

So Seth’s suggestion that public relations counselors are propogandists is troubling to say the least.

One more thing: the USA Today piece suggested that there is no universally accepted test for public relations counselors. That is incorrect. The test for accreditation in public relations that is managed by the Universal Accreditation Board is exactly that — a test of a public relations counselor’s experience, knowledge, proficiency and professionalism.

Of course, that does not mean we can have some kind of certification of PR pros. There is a little thing called the First Amendment that prohibits limitations on free speech (except in cases of public safety or hate speech). So, no, we can’t limit a person’s ability to hang a shingle and call herself a public relations counselor. But you can ask if she is accredited if you want assurance of her credentials and capabilities.

Also, check out yesterday’s post, Ethics: Doing the right thing shouldn’t be so uncommon.

Tweet. Meet. Give. Twestival Time

This post is brought to the GFW PRSA by Lauren Vargas:

On Thursday, February 12, users of the micro-blogging service Twitter will gather in over one hundred cities around the world to share the love and raise money for charity:water, a not-for-profit bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing nations. The event is 100% volunteer-run.

The Dallas Twestival at Mockingbird Station will feature live music by local bands, food and drink, a raffle, WiFi, feeds from other global events, a free film at the Angelica Theater, a show at Hyena’s Comedy Club, and friendly, engaged Fort Worth and Dallasites united to “Tweet. Meet. Give.” 100% of proceeds go to charity:water. Purchase your tickets now for only $10!
The Dallas/Fort Worth Twestival goal is to raise $4000, which is the cost of one well. Dallas/Fort Worth Twestival volunteers are looking for sponsors at the $500 or $1000 levels, or who can offer goods or services for donation – these will be part of a raffle or silent auction. Sponsors’ logos will be displayed at the event, on the Dallas Twestival website, and included in the live streaming web broadcast; they may also provide materials to be distributed at the event. The sponsorship package information is available online at http://dallas.twestival.com/dallas-twestival-sponsorship/.
Additional information may be found at http://dallas.twestival.com and http://twestival.com.
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