Harlan Loeb's recent Op-Ed, "Misconceptions unfairly tar PR name" (PRWeek, January 16), was a refreshing defense of our chosen profession. Defending PR, however, is only half of the challenge. The other half is showing how PR is an essential and beneficial part of the media culture.
Without good PR, many industries would never be able to communicate the positive stories they have to tell. It's not just a matter of getting through the noise. It's about showing how clients are providing a product or service the public demands, and how your clients are doing so responsibly.
In today's coarsened media environment, companies and industries that give the public something they demand are constantly under attack. No matter how popular a product is, nor how responsibly that product is produced, distributed, and ultimately recycled, today's PR pros face a constant stream of criticism from self-appointed lifestyle police who think they know best how other people should live.
PR pros have an obligation not just to defend their clients, but to demonstrate how they are making the world a better place. This provides PR pros with wonderful opportunities to tell the good stories that need to be told in print, over the Internet, on radio, and on TV.
Is it an easy task? No. Most media are almost always skeptical of what we have to say, even though they take as gospel any charge uttered by the critics, no matter how shrill or unfounded. But this just makes whacking through the media jungle with the facts, and getting the truth out, all the more satisfying once you do so.
And if you're working for a client or industry that doesn't have a good story to tell, you need to ask yourself why you are representing them. Yes, we all need to pay the mortgage, but we also need to have standards, starting with the basic belief that our clients are acting in the public interest.
Without such standards, PR pros provide easy fodder for their critics, reinforce negative stereotypes of PR, and dishonor the entire profession.
PR, when practiced as a tool to educate the public and other key audiences, is a fine profession. If you think PR is just about spinning selective facts, rather than communicating positively what you know to be true about your client, you need to either find another client or another profession.
In the January 30 issue, Audrey Lewis' name was misspelled in the media analysis, and the news article "Nike names comms VP" should have been bylined Andrew Gordon.