24125830 Many Professionals In The Field Of Public Relations Would Agree
Many professionals in the field of public relations would agree it is an industry that requires a strong sense of ethics, the skill to handle media relations and the ability to practice "
a craft that calls for the deft mix of human behavioral skills and communication techniques."
<br />On the other hand, there are those that believe public relations practitioners are simply "
whose time is spent trying to make bad companies look good, rather than trying to make bad companies become good.<br />This site will cover the current image of the public relations industry and how that image was created. The focus of the site will include who the main critics of the industry are and if public relations is truly a profession.<br />Lastly, the ethics involved in the practice of public relations will be covered as well as how the image of public relations can be changed, if it indeed should be changed.<br />The image of the public relations industry is not a positive one. This image was created through a variety of reasons including: a lack of standardization in the field, misrepresentation in the media and misuse of the term public relations, among other things.<br />One of the main reasons for the negative perception of the public relations profession is that some people do not consider public relations to be a profession at all. "
Many don't see this as a profession, so they don't identify with promoting ethics and other issues reinforced by professional associations."
<br />A main argument against labeling public relations as a profession is that there is no set standard for the industry. The only thing that may come close is the code of ethics offered by the Public Relations Society of America, which will be discussed further in the ethics section.<br />Also, public relations is one of the few occupational groups that cannot control entry into the field. Rigorous academic training, such as is required in law and medicine, is not required to practice in the industry and there are not many universities that offer degrees in PR.<br />"
The leading PR programs are at smaller schools,"
said Don Wright, a PR professor at the University of South Alabama. "
That doesn't give us the same clout as it would if they were found at Yale, Harvard and Princeton."
<br />But unlike the standards of other professions, public relations certificates are voluntary.<br />Without standardized education and mandatory accreditation, the reputation of public relations as a whole is determined largely by the actions of its individual practitioners.<br />Joanne Killeen, president of PRSA, said practitioners must be careful not to contribute to the already ailing industry. "
It's like the customer who has an unsatisfactory experience at a store and then goes out and tells all her friends,"
she said. "
Just one bad experience will reinforce the folklore legend of people in our business being out to lunch."
<br />Most public relations practitioners find it hard to convince outsiders that the field is not synonymous with deception and manipulation. The majority of practitioners give up on their efforts to change the image of the profession because they believe it is impossible to change public opinion, especially since the media often reinforces the negative stereotypes.<br />Although public relations as a business is receiving increasingly frequent mention in the press, most of the stories either confuse the practice with advertising or take cheap shots at the public relations industry. The relationship between public relations and the media has become increasingly worse over the last few years.<br />A recent study was conducted to summarize the negative connotations in the use of the term "
in the print media. The results found that less than 5 percent of the citings were judged to use the term correctly. Also, 37 percent were negative, and only 17 percent were positive. Most of the references to the term public relations were found in non-quoted material, meaning the reporter was actually using the term, rather than the source.<br />This survey showed that journalists consistently perceived the public relations profession negatively.<br />A Business Week reporter recently noted, "
The fact is for journalists, truthfulness remains the objective, even if it's not always attained. In public relations, truthfulness is rarely even on the radar screen as a value, except perhaps as a convenient option or legal consideration. Hence the deep distrust between these professions that are (unfortunately) joined at the hip."
<br />Many people, including CEO's and the media, tend to misrepresent the public relations industry because of a lack of understanding what it actually is. Oftentimes, PR is considered to be advertising or simply publicity. What they do not understand is that while advertising can create enormous "
for a company, it's public relations that builds a reputation and influences people's decisions.<br />The reason for this confusion might stem from the fact that most PR practitioners do not have a unified way of explaining their work.<br />"
The babel of terms applied to what is generally referred to as 'public relations' is a threat to the advancement of the field and to the stature of the people in it - whatever title they may use...the diversity of titles and terminology splinter the image of the field...Practitioners in this field are looked upon as masters in the effective use of language. As a minimum, they should be able to use the terms in their own profession accurately."
<br />Given the confusion within the practice, it is understandable how those viewing it from the outside may misuse the term. The confusion can be especially problematic when it applies to journalists.<br />In the field of public relations the only thing that may even come close to a standard is the code of ethics offered by the Public Relations Society of America. Practitioners who are not members of PRSA are not required to follow the code.<br />With only 6 percent of the industry registered as members, this means only a minority perceives the code of ethics as a standard. There is no universal committee that monitors public relations practitioners and the code has no legal bearing. If a practitioner decides to break one of the codes there are minimal, if any, consequences.<br />The lack of standardization in the field may be the reason why some practitioners "
the truth. It is only illegal to present false truths that harm the general public. The law does not say it is illegal to bend the truth.<br />Mary Ann Pires of the Pires Group said she is not happy with today's public relations practitioners. She said there are too many practitioners out there who are not demonstrating a high level of professionalism. She said even though we are not considered a profession like doctors, lawyers or accountants, this should not deter us from practicing as ethically as possible.<br />"
Are we any worse than accountants or doctors or lawyers where ethics is concerned? Probably not,"
Pires said. "
But, somehow, given our talents, I think we should be better. More influential on behalf of honest communications."
<br />Thomas Bivens argues that it is not just the talents of public relations practitioners that should lead to professionalism, but their ethical principles as well. He believes that when trying to establish a universal code of ethics, one must consider that each practitioner has a different standard of values and ethics. He said that ethics and professionalism couldn't be separated when talking about public relations.<br />"
The public relations function has sought to fulfill its aspirations by exerting an ethical and moral force, as well as technical skill, and by doing so, developing an identity and a professional discipline of its own."
<br />Bivens contends that in order to be deemed professional, one must practice in an ethical manner.<br />In order to create a more positive image for the industry, PRSA revised their Member Code of Ethics in 2000. There were many complaints, prior to the release of the new code, that the old code had too many loopholes for practitioners to leap through.<br />O'Dwyer PR Services Report stated that it believed "
the society ditched its 50-year old cycle and its elaborate judicial process in 2000 because the code was unevenly applied."
<br />The PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards said the statement presents the core values of PRSA members and, more broadly, of the public relations profession.<br />Though the code of ethics is not enforced as a standard for practice, many public relations educators are encouraged by PRSA to teach the code to their students as a basis for decision-making.<br />The leaders of the public relations industry have been trying for years to change the negative stereotype of the industry. There have been several tactics used to improve the quality of the profession.<br />One of the most important tactics is professional organizations. PRSA has been at the forefront of the campaign to help the image of public relations become more respectable. The society is focused on helping practitioners in their professional development. Through newsletters, seminars, conferences, websites, newspapers and magazines, PRSA provides the latest information about the industry to its members.<br />Professional development is the mission of the PRSA National Conference, which is held once a year in various cities throughout the United States. Members spend one week learning about the industry. The theme for the 2002 national conference is "
Public Relations: Interpreting a World of Change and Challenge."
<br />Each session that PRSA offers gives conference-goers advice and training about how to handle problems in public relations. This is one way that PRSA works to establish the credibility of the profession as an industry.<br />Another way that practitioners have tried to change the image of the industry is by building relationships with the media. Forming working relationships with journalists allows the free flow of information. According to Bill Ryan, founder and partner of Niehaus Ryan Wong, "
taking time to understand what the journalist writes about, then offering yourself as a resource- not trying to make a sales call"
is the best way to form a relationship with the media.<br />Reporters dislike public relations people because they do not think they are honest. By forming a trusting relationship with reporters, the practitioners are better able to communicate their client's message.<br />Formal education is also a tactic that can be used to improve the industry. In the past, most public relations practitioners had no formal education. The industry did not require a degree in communications to practice. Most of what they knew was based on experience. Education provides an understanding of the industry to its practitioners and helps establish credibility with the public.<br />And, of course, even though every one of these tactics have helped the profession, the only way the image of the profession can truly change is if practitioners pledge to practice ethically. In a profession that does not have standards, practicing good ethics is important.<br />In conclusion, the reason for most of the misrepresentation of public relations is due to a lack of communication. In a field that is based on communication, this is unacceptable. Practitioners must agree to do some public relations work for their industry.<br />Pires refers to this as "
the industry. She suggests that in order for the industry to thrive in the next few years, its practitioners must participate in the image building of the profession. Public relations practitioners must realize that for the profession to succeed and be recognized, they must step up to the challenge.<br />Recent graduates have a crucial role is this image building. As the future leaders of the profession, they must commit to changing the negative stereotypes of the industry. It is their responsibility to hold the profession to the high quality of expertise that they are taught in school.<br />Through the efforts of every practitioner, the industry has the potential to become a profession.<br /> <br />