I think most PR professionals would agree that PR is best as a long-term strategic plan. I know there are quick and dirty ways to do certain aspects of PR. Publicity springs to mind, as well as developing a crisis communication message for a client who calls in a panic.
But it’s best when it’s done carefully and strategically.
Or you could say it’s best when it’s done with common sense and a touch of ethical behavior.
Or you could say, as my co-worker and I have decided, that good PR is Strategery and Truthiness. In fact, we’ve made that our office mantra. But strategery is a made-up word poking fun at the president, I can hear the critics say. And Truthiness is, by Colbert’s definition, truth without fact, but with feeling. So how does that relate to PR? Well, strategery is just fun as hell to say. Truthiness is a little more difficult. PR people are already considered subhuman, unethical Kool-aid pushers. But we shouldn’t be. Truthiness is telling people what you believe is the truth because you feel it. Pitching is telling the truth as you see it. I hope you honestly believe you’ve got the best widget on the market and you’re trying to spread that news. I hope your issues management is based on the belief that you feel your corporation or client really has gotten a raw deal. Truthiness isn’t spin or lying, it’s telling how you believe it is. ‘Cause seriously, isn’t all cola chemically the same? Sure it is, but to believe that your brand has something others don’t is true. Because cola and the brand are not the same. After all, aren’t we all brand ambassadors? Don’t we all believe our products and services are different? Don’t we all speak with truthiness? (mixed with the actual *gasp* truth!?)
Richard Edelman wrote a post the other day that resonated with me. He took quite a few hits for it, too, in the comments (those of you who want to see case studies of blogs by executives who allow the negative comments – here’s one). He walks a fine line. PR people have the reputation of doing whatever it takes to spin the story or show only the good. Well, sure, people do that. More PR people do it than would admit it. Some are proud of it. But I maintain that true PR is still pure, and I imagine it gets harder and harder to do proper PR the larger your agency (or corporation) gets, the larger and more demanding your clients (or superiors) are.
I believe that PR students, APRs, ABCs, IABC members, CIPR members, PRSA members, and the myriad other ethical PR organization members want to do the right thing. That these people want to be telling the good stories, pitching the products properly, acting creatively and ethically. But it’s difficult. The lines blur, the ideas seem okay at the time, unlike those practices you see those other flacks engaging in.
“PR firms have the right to be advocates for their clients. What they cannot do is dissemble about client or motive. Nor can they put up content, then take it down after achieving the desired viral effect. We should stop thinking that short term tactical advantage is intelligent strategy. The best public relations is done in the open, with real debate on the issues. Our job is to provide full information to facilitate better decision making. As Harold Burson notes in the Der Spiegel article, ‘PR is about doing good and being recognized for it.'”
Let’s all hope that’s what PR really is. That at the end of the day people really are doing good. That we don’t get buried under the questionable practices that we all deny. That we can turn this image around. That at the heart of every PR person is strategery and truthiness.
Filed under: Future of PR, PR ethics, Public Relations | Tagged: Strategery and Truthiness | Leave a comment »