What grounds public relations? Is its province forthright realism—as the Public Relations Society of America would have it—or slippery maneuvering for corporate advantage? Is it realism or impressionism? Two recent web postings raise that question nicely.
One, on AlterNet, is an excerpt from Wendell Potter's new book, Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans. Potter, of course, did PR for insurance companies until he quit as head of public relations for CIGNA. The other, an article from The Economist, "Rise of the image men," is a capsule history of the craft, or profession, however you view it.
Both pieces make lively reading about pretensions and possibilities. We come down on the side of PR being practiced as forthright realism, of acknowledging problems and announcing successes and maintaining credible relations with the news media throughout. Yes, spin has been a strain of practice, but a virulent one, in our view.
Read both these set pieces as mileposts through today's PR terrain. They're focused on PR's seamier side, thus providing examples to avoid.
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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