Monday, June 02, 2008

May Media Month Encore--Media View of PR

May ended peacefully, and it's time for my local PR blog to move on from its focus on the news media.

But then I was alerted to this gem from the national media, namely a rant about PR related to Scott McLellan's book on "CBS Good Morning."

More like good grief! Another TV reporter painting the PR profession with broad and irresponsible brush. (His lack of reporting is the reason the world needs PR people--we often care more about truth than the often sensationalistic media--known collectively as the sensationalistas--particularly when it comes to national TV).

Good to see PRSA was on the job over the weekend and rapidly posted this letter in response. It's also reassuring to read the comments from many PR pros posted at the end of the "CBS Good Morning" item.

At least here in West Michigan the reporters don't have such a narrow view of PR. Many express appreciation for getting ideas and access from us. At least they are smart and honest enough to understand that there is good and bad PR, depending on the ethics of the practitioner.


Jen said...

And did you see his "apology" response?

He mentions in one of his diatribes that the public relations profession has brought this upon itself by past behavior. Seems to me like it's ignorant people like him--not necessarily journalists--who perpetuate the myth and continue to sully the profession as a whole.

Tim Penning, APR said...

Too true. The media do cultivate the image the public has of the PR profession though. Recent research I did shows that the entertainment media and the news media have been consistently negative in their stereotypical portrayals of PR people since the term "public relations" first entered the American lexicon in the 1920s. That certainly has long-term effect, and continues in today's "Sex and the City" and "Phone Booth" portrayals of PR people as shallow, selfish hacks.

In addition to the media, we have bad PR practitioners to blame--but those are anecdotes, and the media is irresponsible in generalizing bad examples as characteristic of the profession. That's weak intellect, the old-fashioned straw man argument. It's the same as saying all journalism is characterized by tabloids, all doctors are like the one in EGR who re-used sutures, all professors smoke pipes and wear elbow patches and have no practical experience :)

Another problem we have, and another research project I'm doing, is that people don't realize how much they rely on "PR" because they don't know what it is. As some of the comments on CBS' web site show, annual reports, fundraising dinners for charities, responsible crisis response etc are also "PR," but you never hear the media describe it as such in those cases. Then it's just a back channel relationship. When organizations communicate well, credit goes to "management."