PR AND THE MEDIA CONFERENCE 2003: Reputation of PR damaged by political spin scandals

The image of PR took another battering last year, principally because of its association with political spin, according to research unveiled last week.

The study - undertaken by Echo Research with the results revealed exclusively at PRWeek's PR and the Media conference - showed the volume of coverage of PR 'spin' and PR practitioners in the national media almost halved last year.

The number of articles on PR in the national media fell from 940 in 2001 to 547 last year, and there was a rise in the proportion judged to be 'unfavourable' from 28 to 34 per cent.

The resignations of Jo Moore and Martin Sixsmith and the row over arrangements for the Queen Mother's funeral resulted in a deluge of negative coverage for PR.

PR is overwhelmingly portrayed by the media as being 'spin', with more than 340 such articles - mostly negative - published last year.

Articles linking PR with 'concealing/hiding truths' or being 'manipulative' were also numerous last year, as were articles associating the industry with 'leaks', smear campaigns and 'lacking substance'.

Chime Communications chief Lord Bell was the PR industry figure most represented in the national media last year, followed by Max Clifford, Matthew Freud and the former Buckingham Palace communications secretary Simon Walker, who now heads communications at news agency Reuters (PRWeek, 13 December 2002).

Echo Research CEO Sandra Macleod said: 'The opportunity, I would suggest, is that now is the right time to bang the drum about the commercial importance and value of PR. The question is "who?" as there is no clear "PR voice" out there.'

In respect of national newspaper columnists, The Independent's Andrew Grice penned the most articles on PR with 13, followed by his colleague Marie Woolf with 10 articles.

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