How to Fix the Misrepresentation of PR Pros in the Media

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This is a guest post by Courtney Lukitsch, founder and principal of Gotham Public Relations.

Public relations is no longer an unknown term to consumers today. However, many PR professionals express that they often receive unfair treatment from the mass media in terms of how they are portrayed. According to PR Daily, today’s media should partake in imbuing a positive rather than negative image in people’s minds about what it means to be a PR professional.

For example, Scandal only depicts how the fictional PR agent Olivia Pope covers up for her clients and spins truths around them in order to “fix” or deceive the public. Her sense of urgency is always paramount, but unlike a majority of PR pros around the world, she works with only one client at a time and rarely performs due diligence.

In fact, PR is not just about crisis management, and it is most definitely not based on lying. One of the most common biases people hold against PR pros is that they are unethical spin doctors. On the contrary, ethics has emerged as perhaps the most important issue in today’s PR industry from both a credibility and accountability standpoint. Media site Cyber Alert states that PR pros today often serve as the corporate conscience to ensure transparency in operations and editorial.

Perhaps misrepresentations arise because there is little understanding of what PR pros have to do on a daily basis. Their purview expands weekly. U.S. News cites that a PR pro’s regular job responsibilities include preparing story pitches, press releases, interviews, presentations, awards, video scripts and high-profile speaking engagements. Besides troubleshooting and identifying solutions to problems, the PR pro is charged with cultivating positive relationships between the client and its related audiences, not to mention driving profitability through marketing, social media and industry event production.

While the current media makes PR pros look larger than life, other series such as Sex and the City emphasize the glamorous side of the job, which certainly exists, but in reality equates to 10 percent of the job annually. In reality, PR pros are among some of the smartest people in the world, and the majority of them are female. The Atlantic points out that 63 percent of PR specialists and 59 percent of PR managers today are female. This also translates to 51 percent of the news world constituted by females; equating to over half of all media content generated and published today. Therefore, PR is an incredibly promising career path for aspiring female professionals in the communications and marketing fields.

In the real world, the PR profession requires critical thinking, public sensitivity and strategic planning. PR pros must possess a creative and collaborative mind in order to foresee industry trends and be proactive to potential market challenges.

A Harvard University psychological study shows that people normally make two basic judgments about a person when they meet them for the first time. The first is that if the person is trustworthy, and the second is if the person is respectable. Many people consider the second attribute more important, but actually trust weighs much more than mere competence in the business world.

One of the primary goals PR pros work to achieve is maintaining client reputation and upholding credibility. In order to maintain this balance, PR pros are bound to be trustworthy advisers themselves. When a client trusts the PR pro, a positive, mutually beneficial relationship can be established for further collaboration and growth of the business.

With a 12 percent rate of increase annually, the PR industry is growing rapidly as a whole. Due to higher competition and lower salaries, journalism is shrinking at about the same rate, according to The Atlantic. This change means that more businesses are being driven by marketing PR professionals than ever.

PR pros today must create the best pitch and solutions possible over the competition. Another result caused by the shrinking of traditional journalism is that PR pros must seek new social media outlets to expand their reach to the public.

Facing all the challenges and potential within the PR industry today, we must work diligently to mentor, network and educate both internally inside the agency environment — but also externally to the media and its constituents, in order to promote a positive perception of what it means to be a PR professional in 2016 and beyond.

Courtney-profileCourtney Lukitsch is the principal and founder of Gotham PR, which was founded in 2002 and is a boutique Marketing PR firm based in New York and London, with a roster of high profile clients in 25 global markets. You can find Courtney on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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