LEADER: PR needs to fight its evil reputation

Since the beginning of the year there have been several diatribes against the PR industry in the national media, equating it to a malevolent force.

Danny Rogers, Editor, <em>PRWeek</em>
Danny Rogers, Editor, PRWeek

The latest, published in The Independent this week, said of PR: 'The aim is to undermine or marginalise independent journalism, control decision-making, and lastly, mystify and misinform the public.'

And this follows Nick Davies' much-debated book Flat Earth News, which argues that PR's raison d'etre is '... that the masses are a political threat whose thinking must be controlled by the techniques of PR'.

Now this magazine does not set out to blindly praise the industry. Far from it. PRWeek is written by staff who see their vocation as journalism. Instead it sees itself as a critical friend to the industry, uncovering poor practice and championing professional practice.

And the magazine very rarely experiences PR people who display the motives outlined above. Of course, you may say, PR is cleverer than that.

But then the PROs we write about, meet and talk to are often drawn from journalism, or law or other forms of marketing. Are we to believe the moment they join PR, they become corrupted? Unlikely.

That said, some PR practices are indeed poor and misleading. Only this week, during the media debate on the safety of vitamin supplements, there were some experts who failed to quickly declare their links to, and pay from, the supplements industry. These people quickly became discredited under journalistic pressure, quite rightly on such an important issue.

Such practices devalue the PR industry as a whole. At its best it is part of transparent battle of competing ideas and interests, scrutinised by independent media.

Public relations is not inherently evil, as some commentators would protest, but it does need to fight its corner. And it must always try to maintain the highest levels of honesty and professionalism.

Email: danny.rogers@haymarket.com

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