Yesterday evening, I was lucky enough to attend a CIPR guest lecture from Deborah Copeland, Chair CIPR Yorkshire & Lincolnshire Group. With years of agency experience, including time at Brahm (now Brass) and Logistik, where she currently resides, I was excited to hear what Deborah had to say. Her lecture was titled ‘Ethics, Reputation and Responsibility’, and provided students with knowledge on the CIPR’s Code of Conduct and complaints procedure.
During the lecture, I was by her comments on the bad reputation of the public relations industry.
Asking the audience if they had ever had any experience of being deemed a ‘liar’ for being in PR, it was surprising to see how many hands shot up – including my own. Although not many, I have received a few upturned noses and muffled comments about being a ‘sneak’ and a ‘liar’ when I have told people I am in PR (mainly from uncles and long lost cousins at family events).
It is no secret that the PR profession has a bad reputation for lying, or ‘spinning’, or just being damn right annoying. You don’t have to look far and you will find numerous blogs, mainly from journalists, damning our industry and our profession. Take Greenslades blog for example, titled ‘Have you ever been lied to by a PR?’ Although he says he has never been lied to by a PR, we are able to ‘spin negatives into positives with a breathtakingly cavalier attitude towards the reality.’ He also notes that it was ‘much simpler’ back when there were no PR’s around. Food for thought, indeed.
So will the PR profession ever be taken seriously? As a final year student a few months from graduation, and the next generation of the PR profession, I feel it is important for students and young practitioners like myself to be the catalyst for change for this issue.
But how? Firstly, we need to start in the workplace. It is important that as well as generally being a great PR person, and doing all the things great PR people do to achieve results for their clients, we should do all our work honestly, using professional judgement and experience, and with integrity. Of course, we should never knowingly disseminate untrue knowledge and make a conscious effort to discover whether information we have been given is true and correct before disseminating it.
So what about if we witness other people in our profession conducting such malpractice? As an intern, or young graduate starting out in the industry, the last thing we will want to do is stand up and out an employer, colleague, or someone else in the industry. However, the only way we can get PR to the boardroom, and stop it being seen as a ‘spin’ and dishonest industry, is if we do. The best way to do this is to go to through the CIPR complaints procedure anonymously.
It is also important as the next generation of PR professionals, that we take time to create and maintain strong relationships with journalists and understand their needs and wants, as much as they should understand ours. After all, PRs and journalists should have a symbiosis relationship, as we can, and are, mutually beneficial to one another. What can PR professionals do then to improve relationships with journalists?
Know the journalist, audience, publication and relevance of the story What are their interests and more importantly, why would they be interested in your story? Keep it relevant and personal. Build a rapport and relationship with the journalist before you cold-fire a press release at them.
Do not mass email to media lists These contact details can sometimes be outdated and even if they do make it to their inbox, they probably won’t be read
Be efficient, reliable and timely
Be thoughtful of their busy time schedules and deadlines
Do not annoy Calling journalists about a follow up to press release or pitch they are not expecting or haven’t read doesn’t get you very far, and do not call them on deadline.
Promise less and deliver more Don’t promise them something you cannot provide them with, it will probably make them never want to work with you again.
Don’t lie or spin obviously.
Deborah also commented on the medias constant referral to Max Clifford as a ‘PR Guru’ as one of the reasons for the continued stigma attached to our industry. I am attending a lecture with Max Clifford on 31st October and I am really excited to see what he has to say to students and young practitioners who are paving their way into the industry. Keep looking out for my blog post following that!
[On the secret of his success in PR] “Confidence… and the ability to lie with conviction.” Max Clifford, 2003