A vote at the PR on the Edge conference indicated that half of PROs see their role as basically telling the truth to the media, while the other half said their job was about taking whatever action was needed to protect their employer's reputation.
Some of the UK's most senior PR operators at well-known organisations were among those to admit to being hired guns.
The vote preceded a lively debate about the importance of public relations, chaired by RSA chief executive Matthew Taylor.
Trevor Morris, University of Westminster visiting professor in PR, said PROs had a reputation for being 'powerful, sexy and not professional'.
A show of hands revealed while most female PROs preferred to be seen as professional, most male PROs would rather been seen as sexy. Meanwhile, Kamal Ahmed, group comms director at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), argued: 'We have to be advocates for the organisations for which we work. If we sit here saying that we always tell the truth, then we're not being honest with ourselves.'