Public Relations is in need of some PR—myths about our field

By Tara Settembre, Account Manager, L.A.


“Hold everything! The P.R. department just sent over this chart.”
Published in The New Yorker
January 15, 2007

Sure it’s funny, but contrary to popular belief, PR is not about “spin” like this cartoon and so many other comments suggest. When I see material like this it makes me realize just how much Public Relations, as an industry, needs PR and re-messaging of it’s own.

Point #1 PR professionals are not “publicists.” These are separate roles that serve separate functions. Public relations professionals engage in a wide range of communications strategies when representing client companies, including but not limited to messaging, analyst relations, speaking engagement arrangements and media relations. Publicists almost exclusively deal in media relations, usually managing the reputation of a single individual or small group.

Myth #2: Attention-getting gimmicks are part of PR. *sounds the no buzzer* Wrong! Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

Debunk #3: We are not spin doctors or tellers of lies. I know that, in my career, I have never distorted the truth or told tall-tales on behalf of a client, or relayed fictitious messages – nor have any colleagues I’ve worked with.

Myth #4: The primary purpose of a PR professional is to write press releases. PR is much more than media coverage. Yes, press releases are important and they need written, but savvy PR generates attention by applying media strategy to the news world in a meaningful way. We proactively work to identify story ideas that penetrate our client’s audience in the most impactful and appropriate ways.

Myth #5: Marketing and Advertising agencies can easily do PR, or, PR is the same as advertising. Many agencies have tried, but very few succeed in offering these dual media services – PR requires a different skill set and approach. We are not customers of the media, nor do we buy paid-for media space. PR practitioners obtain coverage if it provides information that helps inform and educate readers, viewers and listeners.

2 Comments
  • Bill Sledzik

    February 16, 2007 at 8:48 pm Reply

    Hi, Tara.

    I haven’t stopped in for a while. My bad. But your comment on my blog earlier today reminded me it was time to revisit Fusion.

    Your “points” in this post are hauntingly similar to a list of “myths” I send to prospective PR students — and a reminder that I need to get them up on our website. Too many of the uninitiated see us as in the spin-doctor stereotype. And it seems no matter how hard we work, that stereotype persists.

    Keep up the good fight. Someday, by God, my mom will actually understand what I do!

  • Bob Geller

    February 24, 2007 at 9:57 am Reply

    Yes, it’s ironic – companies never just have “problems,” it always seems that they are said to have “PR problems.”

    Example: Many are positioning Jet Blue’s current challenges as a “PR problem.”

    No question there is an issue related to reputation and crisis management, but the larger issues relates to operational problems, followed by missteps, with communications mistakes thrown in.

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