Editorial: Even a survey on spin can be spun

This week’s ’spin special’ is a veritable spinmeister’s dream. For as well as discussing one of the most discussed issues of the PR pros, it also contains statistics - and as everyone knows, statistics can be used to creative and powerful effect.

This week’s ’spin special’ is a veritable spinmeister’s dream. For as well as discussing one of the most discussed issues of the PR pros, it also contains statistics - and as everyone knows, statistics can be used to creative and powerful effect.

This week’s ’spin special’ is a veritable spinmeister’s

dream. For as well as discussing one of the most discussed issues

of the PR pros, it also contains statistics - and as everyone

knows, statistics can be used to creative and powerful

effect.



Can statistics be spun? The splash on page one amply demonstrates

that they can. We have made a positive out of the fact that the

relationship between journalists and PR pros is not as bad as we

might think. But the statistics could just as easily be turned

the other way. For while journalists might have less respect for

salespeople, lawyers, celebrities and politicians, is it anything

to celebrate when the PR profession is rated in the same breath

as management consultants, and when artists, accountants and law

enforcement officers are held in higher esteem?



And just as 42% of PR pros are rated ’good’ or ’excellent,’

should we really be happy when a quarter are merely ’competent’

and a third are rated by journalists as either ’less than

competent’ or ’poor’?



Of course, journalists and PR pros will always be at loggerheads

on some occasions. They do not serve the same masters, even if

their instinct to tell the truth is very often the same. But the

PR industry cannot be satisfied with these numbers. Clearly there

is work to be done. But what can the profession do to improve its

standing? There are three ways in which the industry can help

itself.



Part of this is a matter of recruitment and education of the best

talent: too many executives are entering the industry without

sufficient media skills (we should know - PRWeek gets some

terrible pitches, and PR pros cannot blame lack of familiarity on

this occasion).



Another part of the solution is to educate journalists to

understand what it is that PR pros do. PRWeek has circulated the

PRWeek/Business Wire Journalist survey, and we hope this plays a

part, but it behooves the PR profession to develop friendships

and relationships with journalists - not every one, of course,

that would be impossible. But if every journalist could have a

real, honest and open relationship with a PR professional, it

would help to make journalists better understand the role that PR

plays, the functions that it performs and the circumstances in

which it operates.



But the biggest change required is a more honest appraisal of PR

by PR practitioners themselves. PR is not a calling, it’s an

occupation. As 50.5% of pros admit, ’spin’ is about ’presenting a

company or individual or product in the best possible light.’

Intrinsic in that statement is the admission that PR is

essentially a sales job.



Very often, the role of the PR professional is to serve the

public interest: it is the PR executive’s job to counsel senior

management in a course of action that will go down well with the

public. But if you’re doing your job, it might not always be in

the public interest. And in a world where there are shades of

gray, as well as black and white, PR needs to be honest not just

about the messages it puts out, but about the role that it has.



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