By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)
The results are in from last week’s “straw poll” on pressing issues facing public relations.
Sincere thanks to all — well both — loyal readers who cast votes in my simple barometer attempt on the state of the profession. And, now for the results to the four questions posed:
- Better integration with other disciplines: 1 vote
- Improved/enhanced measurement: 1 vote
- Need for greater transparency: No votes
- Managing crisis in a digital world: No votes
- Other: No votes
Is my spirit broken at the poor results? Not at all. Did I expect a huge response? Not really.
I understand that people are busy, and my little poll faces a lot of competition for attention and interest. But if you’d still like to cast a vote, the poll remains open:
(By the way, hundreds of public relations professionals met in Atlanta this month to learn and share ideas. Visit the PRSA website and scroll to the “What’s New” section at left to read reports from the 2015 national conference on presentations from industry thought leaders.)
Now, on to the topic I maintain is the most pressing and compelling issue before the public relations profession: The need for those of us in public relations to do a better job of defining the practice — what constitutes public relations and what does not.
A case in point happened Friday while I watched the local morning news. A history professor from a prestigious Chicago university was commenting on the murderous actions of the Islamic State, including the quality and effectiveness of videos and social media tactics used to recruit and spread its warped message of hate and terror.
The professor ended the segment by stating that the group also known as ISIS has developed “a very good public relations department.”
No, no, no!
Professor, it’s called “propaganda.” What ISIS and other terrorist groups employ to communicate is diametrically the opposite of modern public relations, which is based on transparency, open disclosure and safeguarding confidences and rooted in doing something positive for society.
It’s this misconception of the practice of ethical, effective public relations that needs to be addressed by those of us in the profession. We should not let this continue unabated. Given the horrific attacks in Paris last week, we can anticipate that there will be continued discussion regarding the videos, tweets and posts that originate from terrorist cells around the world. As a profession, public relations professionals should actively address situations such as the one mentioned above and offer clarification. Let’s collectively do what we do best: Communicate the truth.
To those practitioners who question the validity of my thoughts or wonder whether these suggestions have merit, let me offer this final thought: Do you want the communications work you conduct for clients to be equated with the type of communications presented by terrorists? I trust not.