Bad Press for PR Folks?

This past week as I was chatting with one of the costumers, I mentioned that I had just graduated with a degree in Public Relations in June. His response was not what I was used to, and it threw me off guard.

“Disgusting!” he essentially shouted. I give him a surprised look and then a little laugh to lighten the mood. “I don’t mean you personally- I’m sure you are very nice person- but that profession is terrible and I am disgusted by the filth that they have spread to the public in this country.”

He went on to finger through the newspaper he was reading and highlight each story that was filth, and how it had been undoubtedly pitched to the journalist by a no-good-dirty-rotten-money-grubbing-PR-practitioner.

My initial reaction was to get defensive, but I decided to delay my response and listen to his argument before putting in my two cents. As I was listening to this fellow, and how passionately and aggressively he spoke about the subject, I suddenly thought of a blog post I read a few months back by Dave Fleet titled, “PR Isn’t The Enemy.”

In this post, Fleet wrote the following:

The fact is that there are many bad PR people out there. I see them every day in my inbox and if you have any kind of following on your blog, you probably see them too. The reality is, though, that PR is not the enemy, BAD PR is the enemy.

This fellow at my bar was not trying to upset me. He has a right to be upset. And as I listened to his arguments, mostly centered around “propaganda” distributed by the government and big corporations in efforts to gain popular support or money, I agreed with some of what he was saying.

After he had finished, I tried to tell him about the PR work that I had done at a local non-profit, in an attempt to prove that PR can be used for a cause other than evil. In this case, I used it to gain community awareness and support for a good cause. He seemed intrigued, but not fully convinced. He told met that was great, but he asked, “When it comes down to it, though, how many of your classmates from U of O would push aside their ethics for a large amount of money to spread filth in the media for one of these big companies?” I was proud to say that I couldn’t think of any of my fellow classmates who would be willing to sacrifice their professional ethics, including myself.

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