Monday, December 17, 2007

WSJ Perpetuates PR Stereotype

I haven't posted in a while because I was busy finishing up two papers. One on social attitudes about the public relations profession, and another on the history of how the media portrayed "public relations" when it first entered the American lexicon in the 1920s.

So what irony that the Wall Street Journal today has an article about small businesses doing their own "PR" or one pro offering "pay for placement" services. They also have a poll about your opinion of PR, which only amounts to whether respondents think it gets them press or not.

Once again, a media stereotype that PR is nothing more than publicity perpetuates the myth in the public and among our clients. I responded online and said as much. I encourage you to do the same.

The article upsets me for two reasons. One, PR is about more than publicity. (It has been since the 1920s among the key pioneer practitioners like Edward Bernays, Ivy Lee, and Arthur Page, all of whom were providing counsel on policy to management like John D. Rockefeller Jr. or the AT&T Corporation). Second, PR measurement has moved beyond clip counting and looks at ROI in terms of whether objectives have been met, namely whether change has occured in kkey publics with regard to awareness, attitude, or action.

This is why the APR program is important. This is why I teach. I know many PR pros in West Michigan and around the country get it. But there are still too many flacks that give the profession a bad name. (That happened in the 1920s too--CEOs insisting that PR should be one-way promotion instead of two-way dialogue, "press agents" engaging in silly stunts). Sadly, we will always have to define our profession. Unless there's a novel or movie or reality TV show that portrays PR correctly. (But there too, one study I encountered shows that from 1930-1995, novels and films in which a PR person is a character all--ALL--show PR in a negative light.

Sigh. I'm thinking of a New Year's resolution....

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