By Eric Law

A lot of people don’t have a clear idea of what PR practitioners do.

Manipulators, spin doctors and obfuscators are common stereotypes, all with negative connotations.

We’ve all heard them, but they’re more than just anecdotal.

An August 2015, Gallup survey measured the perception of various industries in the United States; the advertising and public relations industry was one of the lowest ranked.

It’s possible the media play a role in this perception. Plenty of movies like Edge of Tomorrow, Thank You for Smoking and In the Loop often show PR practitioners as shameless deceptive distorters of the truth.

In the Mad Men episode “Public Relations,” copywriter Peggy Olsen orchestrates for two actors to fight for the last can of Sugarbear ham in a supermarket.

In reality, unethical practitioners are a minority. Most people in PR understand the moral boundaries inherent in professionalism and act according to them.

Various bloggers and commentators have discussed the disconnect between common assumptions and the reality of PR work, but little has been done in Canada to increase public awareness.

Advertisers, on the other hand, have made efforts to change their public perception. For example, Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) has taken the initiative to improve its reputation with its “Truth in Advertising Matters” campaign.

What should the PR industry do to improve the public’s perception of it?

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