Sunday, February 13, 2005

New York Times Takes PR to Task

I would imagine that most PR practitioners will probably find themselves involved in a discussion regarding Sunday's New York Times article, which levels a rather scathing indictment of the public relations industry.

While it's always worrisome to see articles that can potentially paint a whole industry with a broad brush, there's also a lot practitioners can do to clear the confusion that this story will most likely create. It's true there are aspects of PR that are similar to those described in the story, undertaken by Ketchum and the agency led by Armstrong Williams.

However, the valued work that the vast majority of PR practitioners do is nothing that should be apologized for. We must work diligently to dispel the notion that PR involves twisting the truth or creating messages out of "half-truths." Most people who engage the services of a PR firm find that they greatly help streamline the process of sending out newsworthy messages to the right people. They do this by condensing information into a clear, concise format that shows journalists and others they value and respect their time. There are many respected journalists who will tell you good PR practitioners help serve as another resource for them by passing along information they may not yet had a chance to discover.

Also, perhaps most importantly, this story should help dispel the notion that small independents have no chance of competing in this industry. If anything, it shows honest, hard work is what really counts.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

A Service Worth Paying For

More and more these days, PR practitioners are encountering individuals who are asking them about working on a pay-per-placement basis. And, contrary to popular notions, it's not only very small clients, but even law firms that are investigating the possibility.

From a practical perspective, I can certainly see how a PR practitioner might entertain this notion. After all, if you're attracted by the account and have the time, why not take the chance? The biggest danger I see, however, is the long-term implications this will have on our industry. Like any industry, PR has good and bad practitioners. But one could make that argument about most any professional service around. And I have yet to see someone asking an accountant or tax preparer to work on a commission basis, getting only a percentage of the refund; you won't see an attorney other than a personal injury practitioner willing to work for free in a civil action, etc.

Obviously, anyone encountering this situation in either an informal lunch or gathering or a more advanced business discussion must tread the issue with care. But I urge anyone in this field who can to fight against this trend. In a professional service field, a person is compensated for their knowledge and expertise. This is no different in public relations and practitioners should demand equal treatment.