PR people as liars

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.

Cohen responds to the responses on June 2, 2008, noting, among other things:

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.

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  1. No, all PR people aren’t liars. But PRSA exposed its profession to even more ridicule by exaggerating its integrity in response to an exaggeration about the lack of it.

  2. Kevin Hart Kevin Hart says:

    Unfortunately, Andrew Cohen’s version of the truth isn’t quite the truth. He’s painting with far too broad a brush for his words to be true. He is calling all PR professionals liars and he’s using examples like convincing people that a turkey is an eagle or a cow a race horse. Shame on him.

    While there are unethical folks in every profession, the largest portion of PR professionals are genuinely honest and well-meaning, representing clients with integrity. And they are all gainfully employed. Politics is a blood sport and unfortunately, “bending the truth”(lying) is a tool of the trade. If there is a takeaway from this exchange, it may be that PR professionals should be wary of the type of clients they choose to represent.

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