Recently we conducted our first PR Fuel Reader Survey, and going through the responses has been an enlightening experience. This installment of PR Fuel will look at how public relations professionals responded to some of our questions. You might be curious to discover just what those in the public relations industry think about media credibility, the impact of technology on public relations jobs, and the perception of the public relations industry by the media, clients, and the public.
Since the majority of respondents asked that they not be attributed–and a lot of people didn’t indicate one way or the other–I’m naming no names. All responses are in quotations.
Question: Is the continued convergence of new technology making public relations jobs easier or more difficult?
“Easier and harder. Easier because there are more communication mechanisms to relay messages to stakeholders and clients. Harder because as there are more vehicles and more convergence (and as such a smaller, more powerful group of media behemoths) getting the message out without paying for it is increasingly becoming more difficult. If it’s not sensational it doesn’t get a run unless you pay for the privilege.”
“Not applicable really, but the more technological advances in computers, phone equipment and the internet, the harder it is for my boss to make intelligent choices for vendors.” (Ed. note: A good point here, because public relations is like any other business when it comes to overhead, back-end technology, etc.)
“Easier. The message is still the same, but it wears a different pair of shoes for each type of communications point.”
“Easier in that there are faster and better ways to get information to publishers than ever before. Harder in that the market is more fractured and much more diverse, requiring more ground work to identify the best outlets among many.”
“More difficult. It seems like there is so much unnecessary technology that people forget that you can just call them on the phone or even meet them in person.”
Question: In general, do you feel members of the media have a positive or negative view of public relations professionals?
“Neither, but as a necessary evil. We serve them a banquet, they get to determine what they will eat. This is where personal credibility and reputation are as important as it was in the Old West. Now it isn’t a handshake, but a phone call.”
“Love/hate relationship. Need us to feed them info but find us pestering and annoying.”
“Just like there are good and bad in all professions, I believe the media holds a mixed view of PR professionals. If they’re truly professional, they help the media do their jobs. If they’re really good, they do the media’s job for them. If they are outstanding, they operate in deep background, feeding info to the media as an anonymous reliable source.”
“Depends on which PR flack they are discussing. I like to think that media have a positive view of me – they may hate other flackies.”
“In general, I believe they have an increasing negative view, but ought to be kissing our feet every once in a while since we help them fill countless inches every day.”
Question: How does the general public perceive public relations professionals, i.e., do you feel the general public views a Hollywood publicist and a public relations rep for a manufacturing company as one and the same?
“People in the general public think I work for the newspapers because they see my clients there. I am constantly explaining to people what I do.”
“I don’t think the general public sees the difference between the two roles – the image of the Hollywood publicist is definitely the predominant one, followed by a White House spokesperson.”
“As people who don’t mind telling lies for a living but who couldn’t cut it as lawyers or politicians.”
“Negative, in that many members of the media believe that the job means digging for and reporting the truth, giving ‘both sides’ a hearing, and effecting change in society. ‘Truth, justice, and the American way’ is the good and noble course, whereas PR people are hired guns who will write it any way the client wants it. But also positive, in that they get a lot of their leads from PR sources.”
“I’m not convinced anyone gets the difference. Heck, none of our parents get the difference. As long as we keep getting paid, I’m not sure that’s such a huge deal. I don’t think the public perceives PR folks as all that hot, and I think very few would use the term ‘professionals.'”
Question: Do your current clients understand–or does your employer understand–the difference between public relations and advertising/marketing?
“Yes, but only when it is explained thoroughly in the beginning of each campaign. I don’t expect my clients/employers to understand that difference without me. I want them to know what I can do and what I cannot do and what the difference may or may not be if things, opportunities, or products have issues that effect them that is unforeseen at the time of action.”
“Many of my clients don’t understand the distinction at first, but when we discuss what we want to accomplish over the short-term and the long-term, they get it.”
“Though they understand the difference between advertising and marketing here (Israel), there is a reluctance to spend money on PR (and marketing in general). And then there are no lack of companies that spent $20K on monthly retainers in 1999 and 2000 and got burned. In Israel, the battle is to educate the market technology companies and their VCs as to the added-value of proactive marketing vehicles PR, advertising and trade shows, vs. reactive marketing vehicles–web sites, demos, brochures–that only work when someone drives traffic to them. Then within the proactive marketing vehicles, to show the success that PR delivers because of its cost-effectiveness.”
“Some clients do. Many do not and they expect you as a PR professional to do many things for them that are not PR.”
Question: Has the credibility of the media taken a hit in recent years? If so, do you feel this impacts public relations?
“I think the credibility of the media remains low. But unfortunately, I think the credibility of PR professionals remains lower. It doesn’t make much difference.”
“I think the credibility of the media has come into question, but not as much as the credibility of Corporate America, so it’s all relative! There’s been too much other crap in the way, so media credibility isn’t as big of an issue as it should be.”
“To some extent, yes. I’m not sure how much attention is paid by the general population.”
“The credibility of the media has probably taken the biggest hit ever this year. From my perspective it means that the facts have to be crystal clear, and you have to find a way around the media to reach your audiences for some issues.”
“It’s taken another hit. Doesn’t affect me personally any. I think I’ll do better if journalists want to make up news stories. I can then make up PR success stories and get a raise.”
“Surely, especially considering Dan Rather and the disputed reports about Bush’s service record, and the very powerful and disorienting documentaries ‘Outfoxed’ and even ‘Fahrenheit 9/11.’ I think the feeling the public is left with is that the news is all partisan, that it’s all biased, that ‘news’ can’t be trusted no matter who is delivering it. They basically talk about the same things (the Iraq war) or don’t talk about the same things (voter fraud and its impact on democracy) and spin it their way. Maybe most of us involved with PR, even peripherally like me, already thought so and use that knowledge to the advantage whenever possible. I don’t think it makes the job harder in that media bias has always been a factor.”
This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.