When PR gets a bad rep

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I don’t know about you, but, just occasionally when I tell people what I do for a living, I get a reaction that can be summed up by the following: Pah! Load of cobblers; lies, lunches, and so on.  Some will be sufficiently unchivalrous as to articulate this view.  A few others will content themselves with looking faintly disparaging.

This is a bit upsetting really, given how hard my team grafts and with what high degree of professionalism they work. 

It doesn’t help when our industry is thrust into the headlines as being a key player in a botched smear campaign, as it has been with the recent revelation that Facebook employed the services of Burson-Marsteller to covertly discredit Google. B-M was paid to try to plant anti-Google stories, which its consultants set about doing, without disclosing who they were acting for.  

This distinctly unedifying fiasco is sure to harden the opinion of those who believe we dabble in dark arts and evil whisperings.  And that’s a real shame. Because we – like the vast majority of PR practitioners – work to raise awareness of our clients’ products or services in a totally and uncompromisingly transparent way.  Smearing just isn’t a word I have ever used in a PR strategy proposal, nor would I ever wish to.

Still reeling from B-M/Facebook-gate, I was met with the stinging words of Celia Walden. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, where she reserved most of her vitriol for the party planning industry, she suggested that PRs are posh, useless and largely illiterate.  She writes: “All those years at Rodean and they still begin emails: “I hope your well.””

Celia, I sympathise and am sorry that your experience of our kind has been so singularly underwhelming.  Actually, there is nothing more guaranteed to send me into orbit than someone writing your instead of you’re.  I’ve gone so far as to sack a repeat offender of this particular horror and would readily do it again. 

If you’re ever up in Manchester, do pop in and witness for yourself that the PR industry does in fact sustain many hard-working and serious-minded individuals who know how to spell.

Oh, and there’s not a single double-barrelled name between us.

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