The Official Facebook Public Relations Wall is providing some great content for me! I’ll have to do another blog just on the Facebook experience…
Omar Ha-Redeye, a student of Gary Schlee‘s at Centennial College, posted this video from PR Watch on YouTube. PR Watch is a program of the Center for Media and Deomcracy, a nonprofit designed to strengthen participatory democracy by investigating and exposing public relations spin and propaganda, and by promoting media literacy and citizen journalism, media “of, by and for the people.”
(Feedreaders, click through to watch the video)
Some of the claims in the video inlcude that PR=Propaganda. Propaganda, lest we forget, is defined (by Wikipedia) as:
is a type of message aimed at influencing the opinions or behavior of people. Instead of impartially providing information, propaganda is often deliberately misleading, using logical fallacies, which, while sometimes convincing, are not necessarily valid.
I’d like to think that the majority of campaigns I’ve worked on have all been based on truth, not logical fallacies. In the post-Sarbanes-Oxley world, is there any other way? In terms of impartially providing information, isn’t it a media relations best practice to become a trusted source of information to media?
No Seperation of Church and State
PR Watch’s video goes on to claim that the media is in cohorts with PR (the propagandists) because of the money advertising pours into its coffers. I’m not sure if the Center for Media and Democracy has tried to leverage its ad buy for editorial coverage in Canada, but if it has, I’m sure it would’ve been given the same answer any frustrated rookie PR trying to do it would get. F@#! off.
The seperation between church (editorial) and state (advertising) is one of, if not the, reasons that the media is, and remains, such a trusted source of information. If the lines are indeed blurring, it’s why bloggers are quickly becoming the influencers and why some many people are trying to keep blogging pure and free from the advertiser’s dollar.
The Best PR is Invisible
…and therefore insiduous. The video lays out three of the big agencies – Edelman, Burson-Marstellar and Hill & Knowlton ironically missing out the biggest all, my (end) employer Fleishman-Hillard – as examples of huge agencies no-one’s ever heard of. I’m sorry PR Watch, but I’ve never heard of any of the huge media buying firms that pay for all of the shows on TV either. Does that mean they’re insiduous and evil propagandists too?
Yes a lot of PR agencies are invisible but there are plenty of PR people who are openly talking about what we do, how we do it and why we need to get better at doing it. Transparency is a fast becoming a must in this business.
It is arguable that the success of busines propaganda in persuading us, for so long that we are free from propaganda is one of the most significant propaganda acheivements of the twentieth century.
While it’s true that most PR’s are happy to take a back seat, isn’t that because we’re not paid to take the credit? Our mandate is to paint our clients in the most positive light in the eyes of their audience. Not to get barrels of ink spilled over what we’ve done. Advertising agencies get a decent profile but that’s because advertising is Big. Bold. Flashy. Expensive.
It seems to me that the system, as we have it currently, is pretty self regulating. The media is inherently weighted towards “real news” and to the story of the “underdog”.
The little guy’s story has as much, if not more, of a chance of getting their story told by a media that is constantly looking for compelling stories to tell to their audience. Is there a more compelling story than the proverbial David and Goliath one?
Are people smart enough to realise that for all the great free programs they see on public stations, they have to pay the piper in the form of advertising and marketing directed towards them? My girlfriend had a fit when I suggested her favourite program was simply filler for the next advert break…
Small is the new big, but don’t big companies have the right to have their stories told as well?
Questions; Follow Up
I’d be curious to know what other people, especially Strumpette Inc., think of this. Is PR as genuinely unethical as PR Watch would have us believe? If so, are all the advances we make in terms of transparency and ethical outreach, simply small fish in a very pissed in pond? Or is it, as most things are these days, six of “them” and half a dozen of that?
Technorati tags: PR, ethics, transparency, Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, advertising, marketing, media