CBS News’ Andrew Cohen’s maligning of the PR industry on June 1, 2008, in response to Scott McLellan’s new book, generated an extraordinarily defensive response from many in our industry. This included an indignant (and appropriately well-written) public missive from PRSA among many other responses.
For a profession that lives or dies on public perceptions you folks in public relations have as much work to do as the legal profession and the journalism profession (and the political profession) in changing the negative attitudes of your now-cynical audiences.
If I take issue with one thing, it’s Cohen’s use of the word “now.” If you are in the business of communicating, and you trust your audiences to be discriminating and educated, then you must also assume that they are cynical. Cohen is right — we have as much work to do as the legal profession and the journalism profession… not just now, but always. We should be doing that work every day as part of our practices, particularly given that journalists are the first people whose trust we need to earn. While nobody likes to be thrown in with a group that is receiving a tongue-lashing, why not let some of Cohen’s diatribe roll off our shoulders and appreciate the rest of it as a valuable reminder of our ethical responsibilities.