This is an archived blog from when I ran Conscious Public Relations Inc. from 2008-2018. Excuse the potential outdated-ness!
In response to a new book, Trust Me, PR is Dead
Thank you, PR Daily, for the inspiration for this blog post. Or, should I thank Huffington Post? Why does it take three degrees of separation for me to learn that someone has once again, declared PR dead?
I haven’t read the book, but HP writer Margaret Heffernan says that Robert Phillips’s new book talks about companies and people disbelieving pretty much everything that PR generates (PR being people me).
If this statement indeed sums up the thesis of the book about the decreasing relevancy of PR, I am curious of the image that he paints of us as an industry, and am quite sure that he hasn’t discovered companies like mine who are trying to merge with other Marketing practices or use our skills to actually make the world a better place.
Point #1: There is a impression that clients pay us and hate us. This is not true. If PR were truly dead, companies would stop hiring us to create or help improve their brand reputation in the eyes of the general public. If any client didn’t like the way we worked, they could easily fire us and work with someone else, or create their own PR department, or have none at all. Good luck dealing with a crisis in the last case!
Point #2: If everyone disbelieved the words that came “out of us,” we would have no results for our clients and would therefore be firing ourselves. So long as I continue to share newsworthy stories to media or engage public audiences, I will not need to fire myself or look for a new job.
Point #3: There is an assumption that people are both smart and skeptical of us. I come across many business people who still do not understand the function of PR. Why does advertising still exist? Because people are drawn in by them to buy products. If people are indeed not buying products or services BECAUSE of the stories they read in media, then we should also see a decline in advertisements. But this is not the case. I would LOVE to live in a world where the news replaced advertisements. Our TV watching would be interrupted with an actual dose of reality. But people – to an extent – still love to fantasize and have someone tell them how to spend their money. They are even convinced that buying completely unethical products are ok for their health and for the planet’s health. So we (the industry and people in general) have a lot of work to do in educating people about what’s what when it comes to businesses.
1. PR companies can be more stringent in who they take on as clients. B Corp is probably the ultimate indicator of an ethical company, but the existence of CSR policies can be as well. There is a fine line here too though, as people are becoming wary of whether CSR policies are actually implemented within companies. I personally wouldn’t sleep at night if I knew I was being paid to promote an unethical product or service.
2. We can continue to have better relationships with media than just feeding them dribble. Media need coherent company spokespeople, and we need them to help spread news about what’s going on in businesses, and who it effects. In this age of blogs and citizen journalists, we need accurate and efficient news sources more than ever.
3. We can help educate audiences. And I don’t mean helping schools or teachers or blasting PSA messages across social media. I mean, real face to face discussion about what is going on in our world to help ‘awaken’ the greater consciousness. And I don’t think many PR people are willing to do this, which is why I have to step up and get B Corp. status so that we can become a more credible PR company. The next step after that is to try and work with more PR societies so that they awaken to their own power as well.
The point made in one of the book’s reviews on Amazon about radical honesty and transparency at the heart of business and politics is what I wholeheartedly agree with. I’m just not sure that companies, politicians nor individuals will be able to fully be transparent unless they do the self-development work to stop them from doing unethical things and then hide it for fear of losing face or whatever it may be. So while the world is working on becoming conscious, we in PR can take one step at a time to get out of our proverbial grave.