Defending the PR Profession: A Call to Action From the Collective Industry

Businessmen talking and gesturingThe primary purpose of public relations is to uphold and enhance the reputation, exposure and brand affinity of companies and organizations. However, as a whole, our industry does a poor job of building its own credibility, positive exposure and brand affinity among its main constituents—businesses and entrepreneurs.

It’s time we change that, and insist our industry’s representatives and trade associations defend our long-standing reputations and work to rebuild trust among many industries for the value of our work.

Recent indictments against the value of public relations, from Michael Arrington’s numerous rants against PR and some non-creative publicists, to Brant Cooper’s baseless attack against the industry in a recent Business Insider column, have shown that despite our tremendous abilities to build brands and create positive exposure for our clients and employers, the PR industry is failing—quite badly—to uphold its own reputation. The profession has seen its reputation diminished with minimal, if any, effort as a collective group to improve others’ views of our work.

The public relations industry needs to follow the advice it gives to clients every day—do everything you can to proactively build your brand and corporate reputation, and protect your brand when it is being attacked.

We must keep in mind—and simultaneously educate those outside the profession—that public relations is more important to a free society than we get credit for. For without public relations, many small companies and start-ups would toil endlessly to receive the same public exposure and advocacy as larger competitors do, at the most dollar-effective rate versus advertising and marketing.

We are laying out a call to action for the organizations and associations within the industry that have the ability, resources and most importantly, the power, to proactively defend the profession’s reputation and educate all business sectors about the many benefits effective and responsible public relations can offer.

Our industry can no longer sit idly by while these baseless attacks carry on, aiming to degrade the solid work that the PR and communications industry produces year-in and year-out. Our counsel and strategic work has deep and long-term value (as do our media relations and publicity tactics) beyond the figure at the bottom of a bill. It is time we take a stand, communicate to our key audiences, clearly define to all parties our true value and stand up for ourselves, our colleagues and our profession. Enough is enough.

The onus to right this ship—to proactively take a stand against these baseless attacks and rants and present factual data, case studies, analytics and anecdotes of success for businesses that have used PR—falls squarely on all of us as individuals and as a collective group. This collective movement will pressure industry associations to finally, after many years of posturing with little to nothing to show for it, stand up, take a stance, defend our industry, proactively highlight the many positives this industry produces and defend all of our reputations.

The time to fight to keep our professional reputations intact and in good standing is now. This is not a task for one person, one well-placed blog post or a single campaign. It will only be effective as a proactive collective effort, delivered from the industry, over time, as a whole, representing the true voice, passion and expertise of all.

We start now. We are proposing a new manifesto detailing how our industry should be represented to the public. Upon completion, it will be delivered to the industry’s main lobbying and education association, PRSA, on behalf of the industry. It’s incumbent upon all of us to be involved in this process.

To ensure your voice is heard in this manifesto, which we plan to present to industry representatives within the next month, send us a quick e-mail at We’ll get you connected with a Google doc we are developing. If you contribute, your name will be included as a signatory of the manifesto, and you will be helping to shape the future and positive reputation of a profession we all love (and love to hate sometimes).

Furthermore, we propose developing a very simple industry-wide voluntary seal of approval (early working title: Public Relations Ethical Standards of Practice, or PRESP) to be devised and overseen by a neutral group of industry professionals, and which will include no more than 10 rules of engagement and ethical practices by PR professionals. This seal of approval will be free for any agency to use and advertise throughout their websites, client proposals and marketing materials as a declaration of that agency’s ethical work, so long as they agree to abide by the conditions established by their peers—you.

Our professional world is fighting for its own survival within certain, and an ever-increasing number of, business sectors. Our work has stood on its own for decades. It time we take a stand to defend ourselves, and it’s time our industry’s representatives back us on this effort.

Keith TrivittPR Cog

Note: The views expressed in this post are solely those of Keith Trivitt and PRCog, and do not represent the views of Trivitt’s or PRCog’s respective employers, nor of any individual PRBreakfastClub writer.