I read an interesting post recently on the Spinsucks website that criticised the PR profession for focusing so much on media relations. It’s a good read and well worth a visit if you have the time. I’ve made the point on this blog, often, that public relations is much more than media relations.
This particular post, however, made me think. If PR professionals pigeon-hole themselves as being just about media then what hope is there for educating clients, and the wider public, about the role PR can play? It’s just one of the reasons I think the term ‘PR’ should be scrapped.
PR is misunderstood and outdated
We really have to ask whether the term ‘PR’ is fit for purpose. I think, probably not because:
- There is much confusion about where social media fits and how traditional PR dovetails with that. You ask 10 different people and you’ll get 10 different answers about the role of the PR professional in contributing to, and delivering on, a social media strategy.
- The abbreviation ‘PR’ is often misunderstood to mean press relations or even press release and that doesn’t help in trying to steer people away from the idea that PR = media relations.
- The PR profession must have one of the poorest reputations by far – with many people dismissive of the role in itself and any value it could bring. The term is synonymous with ‘spin doctor’, an unfortunate legacy from the 1980s. For a profession that is all about reputation and profile it is worrying that you still see PR professionals using the word ‘spin doctor’ as if it is a badge of honour. Let’s be clear, it’s not and never has been. Continuing to use the term does no good whatsoever for anyone.
- The role of a PR professional, agency or department is widely misunderstood. I find it interesting in forums, and on discussion boards, that people describe PR as being about ‘the glossy’ stuff and see it as something that is wasteful rather than contributory. The profession, as a whole, has a responsibility to change that.
PR needs re-positioning
I know I’ve had discussions with friends, and relatives, where they have questioned why clients pay the money they do for professional PR advice and support. I always describe my PR career as moving from working in fast food and fast cars to what has been, for me, more meaningful work by specialising in health and care. That work hasn’t been glossy. It’s helped to communicate important health messages and encourage people to make informed decisons about their health and care. It’s helped organisations put their views across in the way that their key audiences (see PR glossary) understand and it’s facilitated joint working and garnered support.
You may not think about it but, the truth is, you are doing PR each and every day. It isn’t about talking to journalists or having profile in the press and media. Quite simply, PR is about communicating with the audiences that matter to you and there are very many ways in which you can do that. So, I’m all for scrapping the term ‘PR’. I guess the question is – what do we use instead?
In a nutshell: PR is much more than press and media relations. It’s all about communicating with the audiences that matter to you.
What are your views about the term ‘PR’ and what people understand it to mean?
Debbie Leven is a PR coach who works with health and social care service providers. To see how she can help you improve your PR, and protect your reputation, click here.
Image credit: Debbie Leven