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STUDY: What do PR Pros and Politicians Have in Common?
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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If you are a flack that prides yourself on integrity and love for this fabled profession, get ready to clinch your butt for the spanking you are about to receive. According to a story in Poynter, there were a gaggle of journalists that were surveyed about trust. And guess what? On average, journalists trust us only slightly above elected officials. Mazel! Mazel! Good times! 

What the what?! It's true. 

The study is from the Oriella PR Network, which goes into many interesting aspect of the current state of affairs in journalism — digital first, social versus traditional...and then, how little our colleagues can trust a word that comes out of our mouths. Heading up this austere list is an academic as a trusted resource, which excels 70 percent. Not so far behind is a technical expert, a fellow journalist, an analyst and a company CEO. The bottom feeders of this survey would include "An organization's online community manager," "A head of marketing," "A PR person — either agency or in-house," and "a member of Parliament or Congress." 

The hell, PR folks? Since when have we become the soothsayers of the silver tongue? I agree completely in finding the best of a client's story but not to the point where I am "Mr. Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire" to people who consider me a groovy guy with whom to work. Don't feel bad completely. Conversely, in a recent Gallup poll, it seems birds of a feather crap on each other as on 23 percent of Americans trust reporters or what they see on TV news. So, there's that. 

Why the distrust in creating and delivering the news? It's because PR and the news are inseparable in the court of public opinion. Get this:

Rob Reuteman, past president of the Society of Business Editors and Writers and Colorado State University adjunct journalism professor, faults the fact that traditional, objective mainstream media is being painted with the same broad brush as what he called the “advocacy media” that masquerades as being objective.

“The degree of cheerleading that parades as news reporting is shocking even to a veteran journalist,” said Reuteman, who has three decades of experience in journalism. “I don't blame people one bit for being this mistrustful, and true journalists will have to suffer the result.”

And there's the rub: The same painted brush pans that large, peeps. There are sterling, credible and amazing people working in the news today — on all levels (e.g., local, state and national). Similarly, there are trusting, studious and morally upright people in the world of PR — many of whom are former journalists (like yours truly). However, much like your mother used to tell you, "One rotten apple spoils the whole bunch." Suffice to say, kids, the PR industry has worms. And until we can shake the stigma of "spin control" versus simple representation, this may never change. So, keep working hard, represent your clients with honesty and integrity. And, if not, there's always a future on Capitol Hill for you.


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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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