Wednesday, May 30, 2007

PR's reputation in 2007

Today I used a modified version of an exercise I described last spring to get students to analyze the reputation of public relations. The results were a little different from last year (just like last year, a reminder that this research is totally unscientific.)

Not surprisingly, Web sites from PR watchdog groups like PR Watch and Spinwatch continue to be negative. Mainstream media references to public relations were quite often neutral, with some positives thrown in. Blogs, however, showed the big change. Last year, the students found that of all bloggers, PR bloggers were the most negative about the industry (as Amanda Chapel commented, "shocking"). This year, they found many blogs were neutral (just mentioned the term PR, but not really about public relations, for example), many -- especially by journalists -- were negative, and the PR bloggers generally defended PR and spoke positively about it.

The stereotypes haven't changed, though: spin, deception, manipulation, and hype dominate pop culture references to public relations.

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But its fun to 'give the other side' when journalists are critical. I sometimes blog about them and their double standards.
Teaching PR certainly gives you the other side as you meet so many young people keen to work in the business.

They're not initially aware of any downsides or criticism and it's usually one of us who introduces concepts like ethics and professionalism, and the eternal 'hack v flack' debate. So we find ourselves advocates and critics of PR at the same time.
David, one of the points I make regarding jokes/cartoons about PR is that disparagement humor is intended to make someone feel better about themselves by acting superior to others. So all those reporters' jokes about PR actually say more about them than us. :-)

Richard, I don't find that most of my students come in unaware of the criticism (though not perhaps the full range of it) -- so many have heard negative comments already. I think in the current class it's MTV's "PR Girls"; previously it was Samantha on "Sex in the City," and other stereotypical pop culture icons before that. I do appreciate your comments on faculty as both advocate and critic. It can be a delicate balance.
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"More important than the curriculum is the question of the methods of teaching and the spirit in which the teaching is given" --Bertrand Russell

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