EDITORIAL: Portrayal of PR in the media, not in Hollywood, is the problem on which we must concentrate

This is another of PRWeek's occasional point-counterpoint columns with our colleague Paul Holmes. Click here to see his column. A couple of recent films have some people riled up about Hollywood's depiction of PR professionals or, to be precise, "publicists."

This is another of PRWeek's occasional point-counterpoint columns with our colleague Paul Holmes. Click here to see his column. A couple of recent films have some people riled up about Hollywood's depiction of PR professionals or, to be precise, "publicists."

Al Pacino is washed up in People I Know, Colin Farrell is sleazy in Phone Booth, and Jennifer Coolidge is dim-witted in A Mighty Wind. PR moviegoers are not amused, and I've received pitches from practitioners who are anxious to set the record straight. But I don't think anyone should anguish over these portrayals, nor do I think they have any real impact on the image of the profession. The films in question typically focus on the Hollywood/celebrity variety of PR professional. Not that they are deserving of any superficial characterization, but Hollywood loves to poke fun at its own. It's a tradition abundantly on display in films about the making of movies. How often have you seen an actress played as anything but vapid and self-absorbed? What is the image of movie producers that The Player leaves you with? If the famously solipsistic Hollywood crowd can be amused by its own caricatures, why can't PR? There are two far more pressing image problems that the PR community must address. One is enduring problem of papers like The Wall Street Journal using words like "spin" to describe the work of communicators. If just one CEO of a non-PR company would write to the Journal and explain how the use of those terms demeans a key function within his or her company, it could help forever banish those expressions from the lexicon. The other problem is that there are only a few really good spokespeople for the industry talking about issues that actually matter, like corporate reputation, employee communications, and governance. When the most often-heard communicators are the ones being interviewed about celebrities, famous criminals and their own PR, it's no wonder the profession still struggles to be taken seriously. Film producers read the papers too, in spite of what we may think we know about them from films. Queries arise from Nasdaq-Market Wire deal Nasdaq's announcement that it was making Market Wire a preferred distributor of press releases provoked justifiable questions over conflict of interest. BusinessWire and PRNewswire denounced the deal in stories that appeared in TheStreet.com and Reuters. Yes, these companies are Market Wire competitors, but their questions about the deal resonate beyond the IR commercial agenda. Nasdaq will receive a portion of the revenues when companies sign up for Market Wire, in addition to a warrant in the company that it can exercise for a "meaningful stake" in the wire-service provider. The financial incentive for Nasdaq rather obscures its stated goal of providing its companies with affordable and good quality vendors. While no Nasdaq company will be required to use Market Wire, they will almost certainly consider the opinions of the stock market highly credible. The true nature of the relationship between Market Wire and Nasdaq must be unambiguously communicated to all stakeholders, who will be the ultimate judge of its legitimacy.

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