STUDY: the Public Thinks PR Is Mostly Spin

UK public's three least favorite people: publicists, politicians, and reporters.


In an unsurprising but still discouraging survey conducted by the specialists at Reputation Leaders for the UK version of PR Week, we learn that a vast majority of Her Majesty’s subjects trust professional communicators less than Big Brother contestants.

Don’t worry, though: our friends in media and politics rank even lower on the trust scale.

The organization surveyed just over 2,000 adults in the United Kingdom to tell us that a vast majority — 70 percent — believe the PR practice is “more spin than substance.” A slightly smaller percentage of the poll sample (two-thirds) believes that PR professionals cannot be trusted to tell the truth.

Why? Here are the three things participants associate most prominently with the comms practice:

  • 72 percent say communicators are “paid to influence people
  • 52 percent think they specialize in “covering up negative behavior” by clients
  • 22 percent suspect that publicists regularly fudge the numbers in their own campaigns

Funny how the first is worded to sound so evil…


Don’t feel too bad, though: only 15 percent of participants trust reporters, and a whopping 84 percent of UK adults don’t think politicians are honest people.

The oddest takeaway from Reputation Leaders’ own LinkedIn summary of its research is the fact the biggest reputational problem for PR is…its association with the media.

A full one-third of those who say they distrust PR name “proximity to media and journalists” as a reason for that distrust.

If only they knew…

As Americans, we can’t say we’re too surprised at these results. Britain did, after all, invent both tabloids and reality TV. At the same time, the BBC and The Guardian are two of the world’s five most-tweeted news sources, and everyone knows what British accents do for one’s credibility.

Yes, the PR industry has a reputation problem…especially in the United Kingdom.

But we’re hardly alone.