An inconvenient truth

Enemy.....Aside from a piece in The Daily Dog, I haven't seen much coverage of a recent Adobe/ Edelman Berland jobs survey that asked 1,000 consumers and marketing executives to name the most and least respected professions in our country.

As one would expect, teachers, scientists and engineers topped the list. But, get this, instead of bankers, lawyers and insurance salesmen (my personal bete
noire) bringing up the rear, PR executives finished dead last (trailing even politicians!).

My friends, we toil for the least admired profession in America. Even Heidi Fleiss, Anthony Weiner and Honey Boo Boo seem to engender more positive feelings than we PR pros.

As JFK said in the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs disaster, “Success has many fathers. Failure is an orphan.” As a result, I don't think we'll see many industry experts or pundits weigh-in with witty, insightful reasons as to why we're thought of less highly than a Yankees fan at a Red Sox game.

So, I thought I'd fill the gap.

Here are my top five reasons why PR is America's least respected job:

1.) Heidi Montag-Pratt (of the pseudo-reality TV show, 'The Hills') and all of her bubble-headed, gum-chewing, party-planning nitwit peers in dumbed-down TV and movie plots have convinced Americans we're a bunch of dumb, spoiled brats.

2.) Our top trade publications read like 'The Lives of the Saints.' Were a space alien to visit planet earth and rely solely on PR media to judge our profession, the E.T. in question would assume PR people are singlehandedly ending poverty, hunger and war while simultaneously spending every waking moment doing good for the rest of mankind.

3.) Our leading trade associations spend more time handing out lifetime achievement awards than in advocating on the industry's behalf.

4.) We're more obsessed with beating advertising, and winning the client's total marketing spend than in explaining WHY PR is the most transparent, credible and trusted communications medium (the Adobe survey results notwithstanding, of course).

5). Our colleges and universities continue to stock their classrooms with young, white females who aspire to, yes Virginia, become party planners. So, in the immortal words of Pogo, we have met the enemy and he is us.

For all of the hoopla and feel-good stories being pumped out by our trade media, the amazing array of strategic work we do is either being misunderstood or ignored by the next generation. It's an inconvenient truth that, for whatever reason, we're simply sweeping under the rug. Instead, we should be brainstorming ways to stem the tide and change America's misperceptions of PR.

This is a self-fulfilling prophecy that, unless we act now, will one day result in our actually becoming an industry dominated by dim-witted, party-planning nitwits such as Samantha Jones, Jonathan Cheban and Kelly Cutrone.

I can see it now. “Ladies and gentlemen, a big round of applause please for the recipient of the 2040 PRSA Lifetime Achievement Award, Ms. Heidi Montag-Platt!”

8 thoughts on “An inconvenient truth

  1. Thanks so much for the note, SFMichele. It would be nice to see the PR trades carry more balanced stories and opinion pieces focusing on this very real image and perception problem. Unfortunately, for most PR trade media, our industry’s horrific reputation with the general public is an inconvenient truth that distracts reader attention from the feel good content they seem to prefer to disseminate.

  2. Excellent, on-target.
    And you really nailed it with #2 in a way I hadn’t really thought about before.
    Those publications are, for many of us, sadly,
    aspirational. Still. But they do remind us of what we should be doing, how we should be working.
    Because way too many of us are still working one or two (or more) down the totem from the CEO who still doesn’t “get” PR, and our boss still can’t find a way to manage up effectively and make a good case and win a place for good and real relations-with-our-publics in all dimensions.

  3. Amen. PR = Spin in most Americans’ minds. So, Julie, baby, what will it take to put you behind the seat of this mint condition ’64 Chevy Impala?

  4. In addition to the misrepresentation of the PR profession in the reality TV world, let’s not forget the recent political coverage. The debate press rooms were called “spin rooms” and Billy O’R’s self-proclaimed “no spin zone” on his TV show. Both imply that PR is a negative thing to be distrusted. I think used-car salesmen have a better reputation.

  5. Love it. And, I remember the conference in question. Maybe we invite one of the faux PR pros from a reality TV show/movie to keynote an upcoming PRSA conference and poll members to see if they know whether she’s a real pro (or merely playing one).

  6. I remember when the Arthur Page Society invited Allison Janney to be the keynote speaker during their annual meeting. It was at the peak of popularity foe “The West Wing.” I asked a senior member, “You do realize that she only plays a press secretary on TV, right?” I’m sure they were just using her to try to get President Bartlett for the next conference.

  7. Great post, Steve. Perhaps it’s time for those of us who are in agreement to mount a “This is Not Public Relations” campaign.