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.