To the PR industry: Take a look in the mirror

ImageMost of the world hates us. We’re manipulative, deceitful, and devious.

Which industry am I referring to?

Well, it’s not the medical one. Or the nonprofit industry. It could be the ice cream truck industry, whose model is to coerce little kids into begging their parents to buy them ice cream. But it’s not politically correct to harp on that.

I’m talking about the field of public relations.


My textbook claims that public relations is all about building and maintaining positive relationships with one’s publics. Although the model for PR used to be manipulation and persuasion, we’ve moved on. Advanced, progressed. Become enlightened. Now we strive to communicate with our publics and receive feedback.

That’s all BS, and I’m not embarrassed to admit it. Sure, honesty is a good policy, and I don’t hope to see any libel or slander suits come my way in the future. But I wish that PR practitioners would just be honest about what they’re trying to accomplish. I mean, come on. War propaganda originated from this industry. Go read the book Toxic Sludge is Good for You. It’s a pretty nasty but accurate expose of the PR industry.

Persuasion? Yes.

Relationships? Maybe.

Tonight I heard Jack Martin, CEO of Hill & Knowlton, one of the oldest PR agencies in the world, speak about the future of PR. He emphasized that the “public” in “public relations” will become exceedingly important as time progresses, especially because of the proliferation of mobile gadgets. He didn’t clarify why the public is the essential element of good PR. But they’re “important”.

The very act of the PR field claiming that its focus is on the people and a two-way reciprocal model of communication is itself a spin scandal. Hypocritical and ironic. The multi-billion dollar industry, which advocates honesty and Ivy Lee’s handprint “always tell the truth,” conceals its real motive of manipulation behind the veil of “doing good for the public” and building positive and mutually beneficial relationships. They call it management; my textbook and professor love throwing that word around. I call it manipulation.

This is the industry, whether you’d like to believe it or not. I like PR simply because it empowers its practitioners to mass-manipulate the public.

Lofty goal? I won’t say it is.

The idea of manipulation fascinates me nonetheless. I could have been a lawyer and done the same thing, but I didn’t want to sit in school for many years. But no one would deny that the primary objective of a lawyer is to twist and manipulate the facts. I wish the PR industry would recognize its objectives are the same.

You may not like me, but at least I’m not a hypocrite.


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