Have you ever noticed when you tell someone your major they do not take you seriously? I deal with this all the time and it is constantly on my mind. Public relations is hard to explain to people if they are not familiar with it, but those people out there that already THINK they know what public relations is are using wrong. Public relations people have a tainted reputation and I am sure that there is some history involved, but it does not seem fair. Society will always remember the bad and rarely the good, but that is the case for everything, not just public relations. Part of the problem is television and the media in general. The media does not create a great image for Public relations professionals and that is why our field is often times considered a joke.
Let’s start with what Public relations professionals really do. Their title says it all; they are responsible for creating and maintain good relations with the public. They must uphold a good reputation for their organization and defend it if it be in jeopardy. A public relations professional has many roles depending the size of their organization. This doesn’t sound so bad, right?
So now we must ask ourselves, why does PR have such a bad reputation? It’s because society has preconceived views on PR and just like every other stereotype, it’s not going to change overnight. Thanks to a blog on Social Realist I was able to break down the stereotypes of PR into four categories and here they are:
- Lie- All Public relations people are liars. There are secrets and scandals and PR is all about covering them up by creating more secrets and scandals. Yes, there may be cover-ups every now and again, but that is not only true in PR that can happen in any industry. And let’s not forget, all the time that PR people get up there in front of the media and tell the truth, but because someone screwed up and lied, apparently they are all liars.
- Manipulate- Lie and Manipulate do go hand in hand, but manipulate is such a negative word. Am I learning how to manipulate people in my PR classes? No, of course not, but society thinks so. There are times when PR people get in front of the public to address an issue and they may not tell the whole truth, but it is probably because they do not have all the answers. And yes, there are disasters where PR people are shady, but that does not happen all the time. For example, not all companies will be like BP when they screw up. Most will at least try to explain themselves.
- Schmoozers- I already stated that PR is about making relationships with the public and we all know that you cannot survive in the business world without creating ties with someone else. It’s a support system and PR people who team up with other companies strategically are only doing their job.
- Girls- A majority of the people in my classes are female, but that does not mean that PR is only for girls. This should be said for any profession. PR involves individual personality, not gender.
- Partying all the time. Its part of the job- Now, this is a lie. Yes, there are special events and promotions that they get to be a part of. And those are nice perks. They are even nicer when you just got done solving a crisis that determined your company or clients fate.
Society is ignorant to the actual profession of Public Relations. People who have no idea what PR actually is, are the ones creating these stereotypes and feeding into them. It’s hard to defend a profession that is so hated, but I think that society is evolving and one day everyone will understand. But we shouldn’t let it get to us because we know how important our field is to the success of many organizations. One day they will come around!