I didn’t realize we were a luxury item

So here I am, still basking in my somewhat-starting-to-fade vacation tan, reading the morning headlines when I came across this post in PR Week’s The Cycle blog.

I think it was this quote from Democrat John Dingell (D-MI) in regards to whether or not the FDA hired an outside PR firm that chaps me the most, “When money to protect Americans from unsafe food and drugs is scarce, luxuries like PR firms and fat bonuses should not even be a consideration.”

Look, I’ve been around this rodeo long enough to know lots of people out there still view PR as a commodity. But I would think the FDA, and those affiliated with it and vested in its prosperity, would want to make sure the organization was communicating its messages clearly. I mean, this is about all of the food and drugs we take on a daily basis, people.

Wouldn’t you want to know, in a timely manner, if something was wrong (or right) with what you’re eating and drinking? Wouldn’t a good PR firm be able to help execute those messages strategically and effectively?

Of course I’m biased, given PR is what I do for a living and happen to love. But Dingell’s quote re-emphasizes how much education is still needed from our entire industry to dispel the myth that PR is simply a luxury service that can be used and thrown away. Effective public relations is a communications strategy every organization should value and understand to help promote and further its key messages.

Doesn’t this just irk you a little bit?

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4 Comments

  1. I agree with your thoughts, Liza!

    Dingell’s comments are symptomatic of a wider problem facing the public relations industry – a lack of understanding about how public relations can help any organization!

    To start with, there seems to be a narrow definition of public relations practice (it’s only about news release writing). What about establishing and maintaining relationships with key publics? What about social media and engaging publics in new ways? And there’s issues management, employee communication etc. etc.!

    Those of us in the public relations discipline need to do a bit of PR ourselves to get the word out about what we REALLY do!

    Amy Bomar

  2. You’re right, Amy. I think many of us can say we’ve witnessed this lack of PR understanding first hand working with various clients and even within our own organizations at some point in our careers. It’s frustrating but hopefully we can continue to move our profession forward with more forums like this and by garnering support through our own good work and outreach.

  3. Check this out! http://prpulse.wordpress.com/2008/01/31/pr-needs-a-new-spin/

    Looks like there is a lot of discussion out there about what being a true PR practitioner means! I think it’s funny this post mentions that “We are not party planners.” When Liza and I are speaking to students or those interested in breaking into the PR industry, we also like to mention, “This job is not anywhere near what Samantha does on ‘Sex in the City.'” You can literally see some faces drop when we say this!

  4. Thanks, Dingell. *grumble* Yeah, we faced this same misconception while I was earning my PR degree at Wayne State (in Detroit; connection??). We were seen as the scheisters who were learning to game the media/news system. Of course, one of my first experiences involved an exec asking me to “spin” a particular story to avoid the truth. That’s how he viewed PR… much like many now view search engine optimization — “how do I get to the top of the list?”

    No, the FDA needs someone out there talking about the good *and* the bad. Not only should the FDA be talking, it should be talking _a lot_ about what steps they’re taking, which they’re considering, and maybe even the ideas that didn’t pan out and why. Also, there is still a story to be told! The FDA still exists, and is doing a job.

    In my experience, it’s been the PR practitioners that have brought a calming voice to the storm by putting things in perspective. It’s easy to focus on the mistakes. It’s easy to continue to bash. It’s hard to step back and look at the problem, come up with a solution, and then execute. While it may not be the PR practitioner’s job to actually *fix* the problem, keeping people posted on what’s happening is sometimes more valuable than the fix itself.

    Think of all the conversations around customer relations… gone well and gone bad. Those processes with effective communications — empathy, walking the customer through the fix process, and verifying that everything is now “okay” — is the same process that public relations employs, and brings the same benefits.

    Hm. This one takes much more thinking…


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