What are you doing to challenge the perception of public relations?
Practitioners hold the key to challenging the perception of public relations in the media and popular culture according to CIPR President Sarah Hall.
Sarah Hall challenged the portrayal of PR people in the media and popular culture in a keynote this morning at Leeds Trinity University Journalism and Media Week 2018. She proposed a simple test to call out bullshit.
“PR has struggled to be taken seriously as a strategic management function since the days of the late and now discredited publicist Max Clifford,” says Hall.
There were too few strong industry spokespeople able to challenge his status, she said.
Hall’s claim is that the media and popular culture portrays PR people as manipulative, always-on, heavy drinking and party obsessed.
It’s a stereotype alive and well from Malcom Tucker In the Thick of It to Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous, and most recently Chanel in The Bodyguard, the BBC's recent blockbuster.
Undoubtedly there are practitioners that justify this stereotype but like Hall I’d argue that they’re the exception rather than the rule.
Hold a mirror to up to yourself
In Liz Bridgen and Dejan Verčič's book Experiencing Public Relations, Philip Young spotlights the issue.
“Just as PR influences culture, it is also the case that culture holds up a mirror and reflects an image of PR. And, as those who spend much time gazing into mirrors discover, the reflected image can be distorted and is often embarrassing,” he says.
Hall has spent the past year as a President of the CIPR calling on practitioners to recognise the need for accreditation, qualifications, continuous professional development, and standards.
Most recently writing in Platinum, the CIPR’s 70th anniversary publication, Hall has suggested that continuous professional development should be mandatory for anyone wanting to be accredited by the CIPR.
“Barriers to entry are another hallmark of a profession and my belief is when continuous professional development finally becomes mandatory, we’ll have come of age. This is my wish for the CIPR as it moves into its next 70 years,” she said.
It’s not a view widely shared but critically it does resonate with young and upcoming practitioners. And Hall is right it will take several decades to alter perceptions and that change must start with practitioners now.
Hall test challenges bullshit portrayal of PR
Hall ended her keynote at Leeds Trinity by proposing the Hall test to challenge the portrayal of PR. It includes PR used as a shorthand for publicity, manipulative behaviour or party antics.
We’ve all got a role in challenging the perception of how our profession is portrayed. What are you doing about it?