Gini Dietrich

What Is Public Relations? We Have a Perception Issue

By: Gini Dietrich | November 2, 2011 | 
118

Last week Heather Whaling wrote a blog post called Dear PR Pro, Is PR Just Professional BSing?

The gist of it is that she was teaching a college course and one of the students said her family and friends thinks she’s going in to a field to professionally BS.

If you’re in PR, you’ve heard this from your friends and family. I remember when Wag the Dog came out and my mom called, after seeing it, and said, “Boy! They don’t make your profession look good.”

Um, no.

So we’re accustomed to either people responding that way or glazing over when we say what we do (that happened to me at a dinner party on Saturday night).

Unfortunately what we do is not tangible. You can’t hold, touch, or feel most of what we do. So people think it’s spin or black magic or professional BSing.

At the end of Heather’s blog post, she said something that stopped me in my tracks.

She said:

This conversation (with the student) got me thinking … and then I started wondering whether we spend too much time focused on defending our industry, instead of just producing high-quality work.

The problem is not that we spend too much time focused on defending our industry. The irony is that our industry has a terrible reputation because we don’t do enough PR for ourselves.

Sure, if every, single PR professional stopped spinning and spamming and did high-quality work, the industry would have a shining reputation. But that’s not practical and a bit naive.

Four years ago, I was at a PRSA senior leader’s event around the holidays. The speaker was the CEO of one of the big PR firm holding companies. During his speech, he actually uttered the words that it is our job to do whatever it takes for the client, even if it’s spin the truth.

Fortunately four years ago I was still a bit intimidated by people in power so I didn’t publicly debate him (and this blog didn’t have the traffic it has now or I would have skewered him). But I did question him (once) before two friends were smart enough to physically remove me from the room.

But my point is this…until we have leaders at the very, very top in the biggest and most powerful firms and corporate senior leaders at the Fortune 500 companies who really get it – I mean really get it – we’ll always have a perception issue.

Until then, or until the handful of us who really believe we can change the perception are in those positions (don’t worry; I’ll get there), it absolutely is up to us to defend our industry, to proactively do our own PR, and to continue doing high-quality work so that outshines the bad.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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