Friday, February 04, 2005

Good Will Aggregating

Why is public relations necessary?

Yesterday I posted an open letter asking folks in the PR industry to join together in a grassroots blogging campaign to help raise the perception of our industry.

Here are some early snips from some of the PR blogorati:

ELIZABETH ALBRYCHT: "...Never before in the history of our profession has there been a greater need for professional communicators..."

ANONYMOUS: "For public relations to be effective it has to be based on credibility and integrity. Those that I admire in the business have this in spades. If there's any kind of Darwinian justice these are the people that will form the PR gene pool for the future."

ROBERT FRENCH: “We need leaders - servant leaders. I want to see my PR leaders on CNN, MSNBC and Fox. I want to see their opinions in print, on radio, in blogs, in podcasts, online and everywhere possible. I want visible and transparent PR leaders.”

NEVILLE HOBSON: "Other than every PR professional taking an individual stand in the absence of any stand for the profession by any professional association, what's to be done? What can any PR professional do to raise the perception of PR as an honourable profession?"

BOB LEDREW: "I've learned that it's simply not enough to do good things -- it's important to show that organizations and individuals are doing them, and to communicate that fact to the right audiences."

MORGAN MCLINTIC: "I don't feel that PR's existence or raison d'etre is at stake. PR is necessary. PR is valuable. PR is relevant. What's more, it's more relevant, valuable and necessary now than ever before."

TOM MURPHY: "I love PR because your friends don't understand what you do and your mother always wants to know why your name isn't in the paper."

JEREMY PEPPER: "...with an administration that had a first term with one of the lowest amount of press conferences, and then showed its disdain for the press by paying pundits to push their agenda, PR has taken an unnecessary hit for being the conduit of some of these deals."

PETER WEST: "Over the years I've seen lots of folks use some of the very powerful PR tools to do a world of good. Let me give you an example of how we used PR to help police with a cold case involving an unknown victim."

Thank you all so much for contributing. But don't quit now! Send your posts to all your friends in the industry and have them contribute as well.

What would you all think about doing this once a month, say on the first Friday of each month?

All in favor, say "aye!".....

Public relations


PR is Necessary

I know there will be plenty of folks who are a lot smarter than I who will eloquently state our necessary role in business or wax philosophical in our pro-PR campaign today. I'd rather talk about the emotional side because for me, public relations is a personal interaction.

And one of the reasons I feel so strongly about how public relations is perceived is due to young PR people like Helon, a 20 yr-old public relations major at Auburn University. On her blog she recently posted, "Whenever anyone asks what my major is and I tell them Public Relations they make the comment, 'so you want to cover up scandals and promote false images.'”

Now that just breaks my heart.

But Helon is absolutely correct when she says that most people "don’t have the slightest idea what PR practicioners do. All they have to go on is what they see in the media." And if the media has been portraying us poorly, whose fault is that?

Ours, of course.

Hopefully, in some small way, this is the beginning of a change in perception. And it begins with me and you and every other PR professional.

For me, public relations is personal because I grew up in a family of journalists. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my father was the reporter that shot the film of Jack Ruby gunning down Lee Harvey Oswald back in 1963. When I was a teenager my parents published five weekly newspapers here in Central Texas. So I grew up trying to get my parents attention while they were always on deadline. Somehow, instead of that turning into a neurosis, my childhood pain has grown in a valuable skill. Now media relations has become a visceral thrill ride and I'm addicted to the thump-thumping adrenal pump I get every time a reporter returns my call.

And public relations is personal for me because I've felt its power to affect other people's lives. My proudest moment in PR happened when I once helped a reporter friend whose brother had pancreatic cancer. The only thing that could save him, the doctors said, was this new Erbitux drug. But the clinical use trials halted during the Sam Waksal and Martha Stewart scandal. My friend was upset because she couldn't get anyone in the media to listen to her. "And I'm a reporter!" she said.

So I offered to help. She had been going after all the business reporters she knew. So I went after the health beat because I knew the biz beat just wanted Martha, Martha, Martha. I wrote a pitch about how the real scandal in all this was that the scandal surrounding Martha and Sam was keeping very sick people from their last hope. This pitch to a reporter I'd never met at the WSJ, landed our story on the front page. My friend's brother face became one of those dot matrix portraits in the Journal and Sam Waksal and his parent company re-opened the compassionate use trials that very day.

At the time I was commuting 2 hours each way from San Francisco down to San Jose. Out the door at 5:30 am, home by 9:30. I was completely exhausted all the time. But when my friend needed help, I came alive again. Helping someone, making a difference--that's what PR is all
about to me. Even when I'm flacking something as dry as RFID tags or CRM software, I try to always remember that what I'm doing will affect people's lives.

I try to keep it personal and true to me and for the most part that's kept me out of trouble. For the most part, that is. When I have screwed up I came forward immediately and owned up to what I did.

So, Helon, I hope viewing public relations as a personal interaction will help when you face criticism. And I personally hope that what you've witnessed from the PR profession over the last few weeks hasn't scared you into changing your major. I hope you stick with us.

Tags: , ,


Alan Kelly, Applied Communications, on Trust and Reputation

Applied Communications - Ketchum-DoE Episode Necessitates Look at Definition of PR

Keeping in with the pro-PR spirit of the day, check out Alan Kelly's thoughts on trust and reputation on the Applied site, published also in this week's issue of PR Week.

"Many professionals, academics and associations idealize PR as a management function for building trust and reputations. But trust and reputation exist in marketplaces and, as such, they must be defended and asserted in the context of competing forces. That mere fact requires PR professionals to operate as advocates, not simply ministers of goodwill and good ethics."

--Thanks, Alan, for allowing me to link to your article.



An open letter to all PR bloggers

Dear Public Relations Bloggers,

Today, (Friday, February 4th) will you join with me and other PR bloggers in a grassroots blogging campaign to help raise the perception of the public relations industry?

I know you’re aware of the recent ruckus in the blogosphere regarding the pundit payola scandal. Additionally prior to this, there were plenty of articles declaring that the PR industry is dead and blogging killed it.

I’m growing tired of defending my avocation and I’m concerned that the actions of one agency might ultimately affect the fortunes of us all. I’m also concerned that as Congress goes forward with its investigation that the reputation of the industry will further decline. So this Friday I’m proposing that all of us in the PR blogging community devote a post—or two—to why we are necessary, how we make an impact or to simply what we respect and love about this industry. My hope is that our contributions will create somewhat of a buffer zone of online goodwill that will hold up no matter what befalls us next. I’m not telling you what to write. Nor am I asking you to even link this campaign back to me or my blog (though I wouldn’t fight you if you did).

However, for the online unity of this campaign, please include the phrase “PR is necessary…” and the following tags:

Public relations

(If tags are new to you, see the Technorati pages above for the html code to insert in your post.)

Additionally, if you have suggestions on how to improve on this campaign, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


Steven Phenix


Thursday, February 03, 2005

McManus' Ethics and Religion and Not a Little Irony: Anatomy of an Ethical Lapse

Writes McManus in latest column: "What's particularly painful, I write a column called "Ethics and Religion" and am guilty of an ethical lapse. How did this happen?"

See Ethics and Religion: "Anatomy of an Ethical Lapse"


Wednesday, February 02, 2005

PR versus Advertising

Last week I was whining to my friend in advertising about how all of the public relations industry is taking a hit both in the media and in the blogosphere thanks to one big name agency paying off conservative pundits.

My friend, let’s call him “Darren Stevens,” says to me, “It doesn’t matter. PR is dead anyway.”

Instead of throttling him, I launch into a spirited defense: “PR is necessary! It builds brands through independent, third party credentialing. While advertising merely reinforces a brand.”

To which Darren retorts, "Yeah, I also read The Fall of Advertising; The Rise of PR. So bow down to your failing industry, if you want, bow to her. Bow to the Queen of Slime, the Queen of Filth, the Queen of Putrescence. Boo! Boo!”

Explanation: Friend Darren has an unnatural affinity for the movie, The Princess Bride.

“Seriously,” says me, “You think advertising is better, more effective? Take this Ketchum thing as a case study. You honestly believe that advertising—over PR—can revive the reputation of public relations?”

“I’ll bet you a $100 that I can do measurably more with an ad than you can do with standard PR.”

“Level playing field? No budget? And all online?”

“It’s a bet!”

We were planning to both launch our campaigns on Thursday, tallying our results the first week in March.

However, the bet is now off. Darren showed me his intended campaign about an hour ago. Now I’m really mad at him and I don’t think we can even be friends anymore.

I don’t know if he didn’t take our bet seriously, or if this is an intentional slap in the face. I just sent him an angry email and he responded with more quotes from The Princess Bride: “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is ‘Never get involved in a land war in the Middle East’, but only slightly less well known is this: ‘Never go in against a Sicilian, when death is on the line.’"

Moron. Advertising moron. The character you’re inappropriately quoting delivers this line then falls over dead.

So I'm more than a little mad. And I'm going ahead with my campaign. More later....