Another week, another rash of stories about PR people. Thanks to
the likes of Billy Crystal, Marina Ein, Lizzie Grubman and Ari Fleischer
the world at large must be sick of hearing about the art of
Of course, because it is journalists reporting all these pieces on PR
people, they can't resist the temptation to add a little spin of their
own to the portrayal of their daily sparring partners. A feature in The
Washington Post last week poked fun out of the incestuousness of Grubman
appointing her own spokesperson. It went on to describe the daily
activities at the "Spokesperson's Summer Camp" as "misleading,
stonewalling, blowing smoke, and, lying like a dog in the dirt."
Harmless fun, or another example of the denigration of the public image
It's true that PR as a profession has not emerged so well from the
dot-com fallout, having to share the burden of over-hyping paper-tiger
companies with advertisers and venture capitalists.
And it's a function of being the one that brings the occasionally
unpalatable message that you risk getting fired at. But notwithstanding
these justifications, it does seem somewhat ironic that the media is
proving so virulent at a group of people who are only in business
because the media itself has grown so demanding.
What the public (via the media) needs to understand is that the
spokesperson issuing an unhelpful "no comment," or the publicist making
up stories about a movie's stars represents only a small fraction of the
work of the PR industry.
Surely if anyone can put this message over, it should be PR
On page 10, we cover a prime example of the kind of communications task
that could counter all this negative publicity, if only it were
recognized as such. Media Watch looks at how the media has covered the
controversial subject of stem cell research.
This issue has been fed on both sides by the lobbying efforts of the
pro-life and pro-development groups. Although this has turned into
something of a media melee (particularly when two sets of children were
brought to appear before a Senate committee), the information provided
by each side, and disseminated in the media, has served to feed healthy
discussion on the topic. Whether Bush ultimately changes the law to
allow stem cell research or not, no one can say that there hasn't been
enough consideration of the options, and PR deserves some credit for
explaining those options.
PR's chance to show its true value
Here's a nice juicy piece of business for an agency looking for its big
break - re-building public faith in the US electoral system.
A panel headed by Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford last week recommended a
major overhaul of the way the media projects winners in presidential
elections before polls have closed in all states. They also put forward
a variety of measures to make it easier for people to vote.
Of course, all these procedural items must be tackled. But the biggest
task, and one which is as far away from the work of Crystal, Ein and
Grubman as it could be, is to communicate to voters that they can cast
their ballots with confidence and that their voice will be heard.
There could not be a more worthy way for PR to publicly prove its worth.