When I tell people what I do for a living I’m occasionally met with a look of unease, followed swiftly by jokes about the Malcolm Tuckers and Eddie Monsoons of this world.
Why? Well, it’s no secret that PR has a reputation issue.
A recent study, revealed by PR Week and conducted by Ginger Research, found that nine out of ten people questioned (92 per cent) think PR is primarily used to ‘deceive the public’ - a statement that makes me want to weep for the many PR and communications professionals that go to work and do their job well, with strong ethics and strategy in mind, every day.
Alongside this saddening statistic, a whole host of other myths emerged as common thinking amongst those polled.
From an amusing perception of how we spend our working days (bottle of Bollinger, anyone?) to some disappointing figures showing we’ve still got a long way to go in proving our industry’s true worth.
I just had to throw my thoughts in and set the record straight…
Myth one: PR professionals lie for a living
According to PR Week’s study, almost a fifth (17 percent) of those questioned claim PR professionals ‘lie for a living’. Eleven percent of respondents also said they trust estate agents more than PRs.
This perception is both disheartening and dangerous.
Myself and my colleagues have all seen instances of this firsthand. We’ve each been put in difficult positions in the past, with clients’ expectations wandering towards the questionable side of the truth, but we’ve remained firm in our stance.
As the CIPR’s Code of Conduct states, ‘deal honestly and fairly in business with employers, employees, clients, fellow professionals, other professions and the public’.
Lying or ‘spinning’ the truth has no place in credible PR – it will come back to bite you and your business’s reputation.
Authenticity has never been more important when it comes to communicating with your audiences – whoever they may be – and a perception that PR’s role is to deceive people could not be further from the truth.
Myth two: Public relations is exactly the same as marketing (27%)
This is a topic that comes up time and time again as the line between marketing and PR becomes increasingly blurred, thanks to the sharp rise in paid social media activity and digital content.
For me, there is certainly crossover nowaday, but the idea that the two disciplines are exactly the same is what often breeds unrealistic expectations of PR.
And, it’s what too often takes away from our rightful place at the board table.
Marketing’s historic ability to prove return on investment quicker and in more detail than PR has meant what we do is seen all too often as a luxury add-on in an organisation - something to flatter the ego rather than deliver strategic results.
Unlike advertising we can’t guarantee media coverage every time, for everything.
We can’t be 100 percent sure a journalist is going to take the exact angle on a story we’ve pitched.
And yes, it takes time to build reputation (see myth three) and is notoriously harder to measure than marketing campaigns.
But when PR’s role is understood, and activity is delivered strategically and in collaboration with marketing – that’s where the real magic happens.
Myth three: PR professionals have ‘glamorous, easy jobs’ (64%) and spend all their time ‘sipping fizz and going to parties’
Hah! While I can’t deny our weakness for a bottle of fizz and a night out at Sidekick, our days are far removed from glitz and glamour.
What a lot of people fail to see when they look at PR as an industry are the hours spent grafting behind the scenes.
Meaningful media coverage, content creation and carefully crafted strategies take time to deliver – sometimes months or longer.
Reputations take years to build and shape.
Relationships with journalists take time to nurture and evolve.
Your audiences need time to get to know, trust and understand you as an organisation.
Now, where’s the fizz?!