Today's post by The Guardian's Owen Jones on Kevin Spacey's statement shows how much modern public relations is misunderstood. It's time to put the record straight.
It's often said that the business of public relations has a public relations problem. Articles like the one by Owen Jones published in today's Guardian illustrate just how widespread the issue is. It also shows that the media are part of the problem.
Responding to Kevin Spacey's coming out statement following an accusation that the Oscar winner sexually assaulted actor Anthony Rapp, Owen writes:
"When celebrities respond to scandals, they have a team of experienced PR representatives to help craft statements. And what do PR representatives try to do in these circumstances? They try to deflect attention by introducing a new story."
It's hard to equate this description with the public relations practised by thousands of professionals today.
Members of industry bodies such as the CIPR or PRCA sign up to a Code of Conduct promoting ethical behaviour. The suggestion that we practise spin or manipulate the truth to move a story on or change the narrative is as far removed from reality as can be.
In any given issues management situation regret, reason and remedy are much more likely to be advocated.
I agree with the sentiment of Jones' article but feel obliged to put forward a counter view about the line of work I do.
Public relations is a strategic management function which plays a clear role in organisational success. It helps businesses find their purpose in society outside of profit generation, acts as an ethical sounding board and manages reputation.
Practitioners need to be proficient in communications but also have management, finance and leadership competencies. The work is frequently 'aways on' and not for the faint hearted.
It's clear members of today's media hold a view of public relations that is both outdated and tarnished from the industry's association with publicists and bad practice. It's now time for this to change and I'd welcome a discussion with Owen about this.