Carefully Crafted on October 26

Dear PR Pro, Is PR just Professional BS-ing?

An email I recently received from a PR student included the following question:

In many of my PR classes we talk about how journalism in general, and specifically in PR, professionals sometimes get a bad reputation. I’ve heard people say it’s just all spin, PR really isn’t that hard, and even my family has called it “sophisticated BS-ing”. How do you feel that those in the field are working to change that image?

My answer:

To your family: Tell them PR isn’t professional spinning or BS. It’s our job to help companies/brands improve communication and build ongoing relationships with stakeholders. I can only speak for myself, but every day, I’m working with small- to medium-size businesses, doing things like helping them acquire new users, crowdsource product development (which has a direct, positive impact on the bottom line), promote upcoming events, establish and maintain relationships with industry media, and so on. These are all tactics that are helping clients grow, despite a down economy. People who doubt the value of PR just don’t get it. And, really, it doesn’t matter if your friends and family “get” what you do. The most important part is that you bring value to your employer/clients and that they understand the benefit of having you and your skill set on the team.

This conversation 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. Sure, spin sucks. And, I know we all share some responsibility to educate people about the role of public relations in business. Certainly, we all cringe when our profession-of-choice is described as nothing more than “spin doctors.” But, I’ve never had a prospective client say “Hey, I’ve been told I need PR, but aren’t you all just professional BS-ers?” Shouldn’t your work, reputation and ability to “sell” your services demonstrate that you bring more to the table than an innate ability to “spin?” And, aren’t the clients you want to attract smart enough to know the value of PR? More to the point: Are those who think PR is nothing more than spinning really the type of people you want as clients?

It’s an open-ended question. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Chime in in the comments.

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