PR won't gain respect with secret contracts

When was the last time you saw a headline like this: "Major consumer goods company refuses to discuss new advertising agency plans"? Don't think too hard. It's doubtful you've ever seen one.

When was the last time you saw a headline like this: "Major consumer goods company refuses to discuss new advertising agency plans"? Don't think too hard. It's doubtful you've ever seen one.

Yet time and again, companies refuse to discuss their plans when they hire a new PR agency - often they won't even admit to having a PR firm.

It happened again last week, when Burger King only grudgingly acknowledged that, yes, it had taken on Edelman to work on PR for its marketing department.

As long as companies and agencies continue to treat PR like a dirty little secret, the industry will not get the respect as a legitimate communications tool that it so desperately wants.

With all the questions today about the effectiveness of advertising, PR people should be shouting from the rooftops the benefits of what they do, not skulking in the background like someone who just bought a dirty magazine but doesn't want his neighbors to know.

The business is under attack, whether because of the issue of overbilling or as a result of the Bush administration's ill-conceived attempts to misuse what PR should be. But the response to these problems shouldn't be to hide and hope they go away.

Corporate communicators should be telling their CEOs, boards, shareholders, and the audiences with which they do business why and how they use PR to communicate their key messages - and they should be showing the return they're getting on the dollars they invest in such efforts.

Stop being afraid and start to stand up for what you do.

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