EDITORIAL: Now that PR's hit the media big time, it must help put an end to 'spin-doctor' references

PRWeek reporters get as excited as anyone when an article about the PR industry appears in The Wall Street Journal. But at the risk of sounding churlish, we must point out when they get it wrong. While last week's piece about PR firms getting business from the companies seeking CSR counsel was accurate, it still saw fit to revive outdated terminology to describe the industry - specifically "spin-doctoring."

PRWeek reporters get as excited as anyone when an article about the PR industry appears in The Wall Street Journal. But at the risk of sounding churlish, we must point out when they get it wrong. While last week's piece about PR firms getting business from the companies seeking CSR counsel was accurate, it still saw fit to revive outdated terminology to describe the industry - specifically "spin-doctoring."

The context in which it was used was most annoying, as the reporter explained that advertising holding companies had learned that "spin-doctoring" was an early casualty of budget-cutting clients. Forget employee and financial communications, issues management, sales force training, and all other PR roles. It reinforced a notion that PR is a poor relation to advertising, even beyond holding-company relationships. Moreover, PR pros have been aware of the discrepancy between the US and Europe as to the importance placed on CSR for a long time. It's not a new topic that agencies have suddenly seized upon as a cash cow. Journalists believe they understand PR because they work with PR people every day. But many don't comprehend the industry's range of capabilities. I don't blame reporters because PR has never consistently practiced what it preaches - namely educating journalists. Considering that professional communicators are routinely in touch with reporters, it's strange such a narrow perspective of the industry persists. PR people must employ the tools of the trade - letters to the editor, op-eds, editorial board meetings - to raise awareness for what the job is about, not just the industries and companies PR supports. Don't oversell capabilities, either - reality is a good enough story. The Council of PR Firms and other groups can't do it alone. It's up to everyone to kill the spin doctor for good.

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