On behalf of PR's image

      7 Comments on On behalf of PR's image

As a former campaign director, last week’s GOP convention was good political theatre to me. But as a PR person, the commentary around it rankled me a lot.  Several times I saw and heard pundits state that presidential conventions are little more that public relations events. While that may be so, what bothered me was that sometimes, in the same sentence, the pundits would talk about spin and lies as if this was part of the candidates’ public relations strategy.

You can believe or not believe that lies were told and spin was spun at the convention. But please don’t say PR, by definition, is distortion of facts.  For many years the public relations profession has suffered from a terribly misguided perception that this is what we do.

Yes, there are crooked politicians, poor teachers, shiftless salespeople, incompetent CEOs, and bad people in every profession.  But I’ve worked with and for politicians, teachers, salespeople, and CEOs, and my experience is that nearly all do their job honestly and competently.  And yes, there are a few PR people who lie or spin or just leave facts out.  If I may reference a silly ’70s pop song from the signing Osmond Brothers: “One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch, girl!”

It’s up to the present and future PR professionals to constantly set the record straight through our words and through competent and ethical performance.  We will always follow the profound Ivy Ledbetter Lee, one of the fathers of modern public relations, who said in his 1906 “Declaration of Principles”: “Our matter is accurate… In brief, our plan is frankly, and openly, on behalf of business concerns and public institutions, to supply the press and public of the United States prompt and accurate information concerning subjects which it is of value and interest to the public to know about.”  That, dear pundits, is what PR is all about.  Your thoughts?

7 thoughts on “On behalf of PR's image

  1. stephenkaraolis

    The other day I had ran into one of my old middle school teachers. I told him that I was a PR major at Hofstra. He replied by saying, “that’s perfect for you, you were always a smooth talker.” I think its interesting how the field of PR itself has image problems. We are always working on the image of others but fail to work on our own.
    I think people who are business savvy or have a good sense of the professional world know how important PR is, the general public or your “Average Joe” has no idea. To me as long as our clients and professional co-workers know that we are honest people with good intentions, that’s all that matters.

  2. Rebecca

    Professor Morosoff,

    You make very good points! Why are public relations professionals working for the political campaign constantly lying and distorting the story? More importantly, why is this being allowed?
    Regardless of the fact, this is what is going on with public relations professionals who work for the government. I guess, that is why it is up to other public relations professionals, who actually follow a good code of ethics, to take part in this election and inform people of information, for the people, from the people. Like you said, one bad apple does not ruin the whole bunch, and people have been so distracted by the bad apples working with politicians, that the public relations profession has lost the trust of the people. The more good apples the better, and then eventually people will be able to tell the difference between whats real and not.

  3. Christine Brazeau

    Public relations professionals use their knowledge and skills with words to portray a certain message to the public. Our job is to let people know what we need to tell them in the best possible way. The public sometimes may interpret that as us tampering with the message to put the best spin on it. However, I think that we are just being more positive with the words we use rather than giving everything a negative connotation. The presidential candidates are also positive in their own messages, however when they begin to speak of the candidate running opposite them, they tend to bad mouth and use negative language. They are using spin to make themselves look better, but it negatively affects our reputation. I completely agree with you on this stance.

  4. Casey Madsen

    The Presidential campaign is basically dependent on PR. The candidates need to sell themselves, their ideas, and goals to the American public. The fact that their campaigns are automatically considered to be “spin” or “lies” is very insulting to the candidates and to all PR professionals. This says a lot about our society! Although the government is known for being deceitful or untruthful, if we can’t trust what our own president is saying does truth even exist? PR is about spreading messages and creating relationships, not spreading lies! I completely agree with your stance on this misconception.

  5. Charles Fessel

    This is the all too common misconception about the Public Relations field. Part of the problem is that people are ignorant to what PR does, and under following that ignorance, comments are made about how PR practitioners “spin” things, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of the public, when a more correct term could be used, such as “fix” things. I believe that PR being spin doctors is just an easy out for people who don’t know what they are talking about and have little to no evidence to back up their claims. Also, I agree that there are corrupt people in positions, but I’ll end with a favorite quote of mine “actions speak louder than words.”

  6. chloelambros

    Professor Morosoff,

    I agree with what you had to say. Too many times I have heard people often think of us “public relations people” as those who like to spin the truth, or lie just to make a good image. It really bothers me too, since the people who think and say these things are not interested or involved in what public relations practitioners actually do. I completely agree with you that “It’s up to the present and future PR professionals to constantly set the record straight through our words and through competent and ethical performance.” As a public relations practitioner, yes, it is important to provide a good image for a client, company, or organization, but not through fictionalizing the truth. And people need to realize how we creatively do this.

  7. James V. D'Ambrosio


    I agree, well said. Too often I’ve heard PR people referred to as “Flacks” and “Spinmeisters,” which is degrading to the overwhelming majority of PR practitioners who are thoughtful, ethical inidividuals working on behalf of other really good folks. It’s a shame, but people often paint with a broad brush and look at things as black and white instead of shades of gray. I firmly believe you can find good and not so good people wherever you go, regardless of industry or profession.


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