In Defense of Public Relations: Take That Meghan Daum

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Ah, the New Year.  We wipe the slate clean. We enthusiastically embrace new challenges. We gang tackle the roadblocks thrown haphazardly before us.

Okay. Enough senseless hyperbole.

Columnist and person who needs to get a better grasp of "public relations," Meghan Daum.

Columnist and person who needs to get a better grasp of “public relations,” Meghan Daum.

Today, The PRDude will address an all-too-often misuse of the way “public relations” is employed in written and spoken communications.  The culprit this time is columnist Meghan Daum, a terrific writer and essayist based in California whose work I read regularly in the Chicago Tribune.  (Print edition, of course, as regular followers will attest.)

In a column published Friday, January 4, Ms. Daum takes on one of the world’s most popular social media platforms — Facebook, known for being founded by a guy who likes to wear hoodies and for frequently changing its privacy settings.  She bashes the site over the course of 722 words (thanks Microsoft Word), claiming Facebook has devolved into an online resource that let’s its users:

“Brag brag brag. Bait for compliment. Self-promote. Promote someone else so as to be able to self-promote later. Brag.”

I trust you have grasped the thrust of Ms. Daum’s perspective: Facebook today can be defined as the online equivalent of that Beatles’ song from Let it Be, I Me Mine.”220px-LetItBe

And, The PRDude certainly respect’s her opinions and even supports some in this piece. But, let’s get to the focus of this post.  As, stated by Ms. Daum:

“(Facebook) used to make you feel connected to the world, but now it makes you feel bad about yourself. That’s because it’s becoming less a place for exchanging ideas and more an unmitigated, unapologetic opportunity for public relations.”

Gloves off time, Ms. Daum!

“Public relations” has been defined in many ways by many people.  The Public Relations Society of America (of which I’m a long-time member) has posted a definition of the practice to meet the modern times.  And, there’s definitions printed in textbooks and espoused by those of us who practice public relations.

At its essence, public relations involves communications.  (So far, Ms. Daum is on target.) But at its core, public relations is driven — or it should be — by sound strategies.  I don’t envision a Facebook user who publishes  a “look at the cake I baked today” post being guided by a strategic process.

I’ll stop picking on Ms. Daum, because there are plenty of instances where “public relations” is thrown into the modern lexicon because it seemingly fits. Well, most of the time it doesn’t.  And, it’s up to those of us who practice effective, strategic and ethical public relations to set the record straight.

I welcome comments, including those from Ms. Daum.

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One thought on “In Defense of Public Relations: Take That Meghan Daum

  1. Pingback: Prdude's Blog | Dear Chicago Tribune: Since You Won’t Publish My Letter, I Will

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