More bad PR for PR?


by Hannah Prigg PR & Communications Executive [email protected]

It’s no secret that PR’s are widely regarded as the deviants of the creative industries. We are according to many, nothing more than advertisers in disguise; motivated by client wins and profitable campaigns.

Of course, the industry has been beset by a number of scandals in recent years that haven’t done it many favours. Against such a backdrop of negativity towards the industry, it’s no wonder so many of us are resolved to accepting our fate as the unfavoured ugly sister to the rest of the marketing mix, with some going so far as to questioning whether attempts to woo the public are a lost cause or not. Either way, the fact remains that the PR industry will continue to have a tough time managing its public perception and reputation.

Indeed, a recent survey conducted by ‘PR Week’ highlighted the frankly embarrassing statistics that 69% of the public lacks trust in PR. Of those who say they did not trust PR, 72% said it was because they thought the industry was “paid to influence people”.

The industry needs a major re-brand – as we are all aware distrust is bad for business.

Let’s put this in perspective. Those who work in a court of law are paid to take sides. A lawyer’s job is to interpret and communicate as much of the truth as they possibly can, in a clear and concise fashion, on behalf of their client. Sound familiar?

Like lawyers, politicians, accountants and numerous other professions, PR’s are paid to communicate on behalf of individuals and businesses. They are paid to tell the best version of the truth – paid to communicate and ensure that the voice of their clients is heard above the noise.

A bad habit among PR professionals is the relative silence with which we greet questions about what we do; that in itself leads to perhaps our industry’s greatest failing – our inability to effectively communicate what we actually do, and how we add value to the clients we work with. We need more transparency and clarity – something that ironically PR is bad at demonstrating – and we need a better sense of understanding from those we work with. In a wide range of scenarios, it’s beneficial to us for our clients to think we’re working magic, but this is a double-edged sword.

Far from evil, PR is the voice to represent a company. Sometimes, companies make mistakes and get themselves into hot water. PR is the element in a client’s crisis communication strategy to make sure their reputation doesn’t get destroyed over a faux pas. Good PR can make all the difference when a new company needs their hard work recognised, and helps them get their business to loftier heights. However, unless we do a PR job on ourselves, there is a real danger that the PR industry itself could be under threat.

But until then, for now at least, like lawyers, politicians, accountants and all the other professions ‘not trusted’, I’m afraid the public will have to add PR to the list of services it may not want but certainly does need.