Public relations evidently isn’t doing so well at maintaining its own image, which has always been a special challenge anyway. Jon Gingrich, editor of O’Dwyer’s magazine, notes that, when asked on a survey by Texas Tech University’s College of Media and Communication, respondents supplied “key words” like “liar” and “spin doctor” when asked about PR’s ethical standards.
Better news was that, personally, PR pros were viewed as “smart” and “informed.” It’s just that they were viewed as using their positive personalities for negative ends, increasingly so. What can be done to head off future studies with titles, like this one, of “Smart Friendly Liars: Public Perception of Public Relations Practitioners Over Time”?
Gingrich notes that the Texas Tech study is actually a compilation of two surveys, one taken in 2012 and the other in 2003. “In the 2012 survey, ‘liar’ was the most common term used to describe PR. In 2003, ‘outgoing’ was the most popular term. The second most popular term in 2012 was ‘spin doctor,’ whole in 2003 it was ‘friendly’.
“Fewer respondents from the 2003 survey found PR pros unethical and more found them to be intelligent. In other words, perception of the industry seems to be growing worse.“
Oh dear, this is nothing to trifle with. There’s more in Gingrich’s piece for pondering, and it would be well to take it all entirely seriously. PR’s standing seems to be on a downhill slope, one that could get pretty steep.
Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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