Why is the reputation of the PR industry so bad?

The PR sector has been reputedly dead, dying, or making a mess of it for at least the last decade. We've all read the 'PR...

The PR sector has been reputedly dead, dying, or making a mess of it for at least the last decade. We've all read the 'PR people don't get it' tirades. Many of them are valid. It's a perennial story, but why?

I meet a lot of PR executives who are passionate and smart. So why does the industry keep coming in for a hammering? Below I explore some of the reasons in an unscientific manner, but tell me if any of these ring true.

1. Barriers to entry - There is nothing to stop Joe Schmoe from becoming a PR consultant: no mandatory professional qualification; no registration; no entrance exam. There are more barriers to becoming a real estate agent. This means there is a gravitational pull toward mediocrity.

2. Inexperienced buyers in an inefficient market – Ordinarily, market forces should drive out the underperformers. But PR is a service which people buy infrequently, so the selection criteria can be wrong and weaker players engaged. The timeframes involved mean some firms could jump from one client to the next, underperforming but staying in business.

3. It isn’t as bad as it sometimes seems – While the industry is far from blameless in these issues, a PR error tends to be high profile - an ill-considered email, a backfiring stunt, a poorly chosen sound bite, even typos and word selection come into criticism.

4. The industry bodies do not effectively regulate – For example, the PRSA’s accreditations are not obligatory; there are no sanctions, despite the good intentions.

None of these causes are so fundamental that we can’t overcome them. What do you think are the best solutions?

Morgan McLintic, EVP, Lewis PR

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