Not a Ten-Rubble Bank Note

Not a Ten-Rubble Bank Note

Dear ladies and gentlemen, a PR specialist is not a ten-rubble bank note to be liked by everyone.

The grimaces of the post-Soviet reality have firmly fixed an unsympathetic associative series behind the public relations industry: untruth, manipulation, healthy and unhealthy cynicism, lack of moral principles, etc. The result was a socially disapproved profession; some fear them, some despise. And someone in general would like the “public relations people” to finally dissolve, making the world cleaner and kinder. Such demonization is a kind of ancestral curse, which I and my colleagues fight to the best of our ability (of course, in our free time from serving the “yellow devil”). Although, we treat the situation with understanding and Olympian calmness. All of us in one way or another do not like the police, special services, tax, some even doctors, teachers, which in no way prevents the existence of these types of activities in society.

At the same time, it is much more unpleasant to observe an inadequate attitude towards PR and PR specialists from those with whom we are connected by a single business process through official duty. And there are at least three such main audiences:

  • employers and clients in various positions i.e., task setters;
  • employees of organizations for which PR work is performed, i.e., information carriers;
  • representatives of mass media of all types i.e., editors and journalists.

Each of them has their own idea of the ideal “spin doctor” (I hate this term that has taken root from someone’s use, so I can’t deny myself the pleasure of putting it in quotation marks). And here is what the most frantic representatives of these audiences think in crude terms.

Task setters, “They must read my thoughts from a distance and be able to transform them into coherent texts and pictures that my wife and my driver like. They do not need a budget as they can get our new bun flavours published in the next issue of the Financial Times for free. They should not distract other employees from the work because they are engaged in business, they are busy working. They must force all the mass media to respect us, make journalists write about us what we want and when we want it, send everything for approval and not even think about messing about our organization in social networks. And they must also guess with Vanga’s foresight by how many percent the volume of sales and profit will grow before the start of the PR campaign.”

Information carriers, “They should not prevent me from playing computer games, polishing my nails and going for a smoke break at work. I do not want to write any comments. I don’t want to talk either. If I come off, my superiors will punish me. Therefore, let them write everything for me, and then I will hoover them and dick around. For the sake of order, so that they understand that they are not my bosses.”

Media representatives, “They are obliged to tell me EVERYTHING, without hiding anything, and right NOW. If they say that it is necessary to accept the comment of the information carrier, they are lying and trying to hide something. If they say that they have no right to comment on the situation and must gain insight on the issue, they are blatantly lying and clearly want to harm the public interest.”

I would like to give one general answer to all this. Dear ladies and gentlemen, a PR specialist is not a ten-rubble bank note to be liked by everyone.

The meaning of their work is not to please the celestials of company or to satisfy the media’s hunger for information by generously sharing facts, figures, and budgets. But to help the organization in/for which they work to achieve certain economic or political goals regardless of the degree of its social responsibility and ethical component of corporate culture.

Within their organization, a PR specialist is a detective, an investigator on particularly important cases, and an official on special assignments. To the outside world, they are lawyers who defends their client from the position of presumption of innocence even if the media is openly prosecutorial. This is the only correct position.

Therefore, you should not reproach the representatives of our profession for being pushy (as colleagues do), throwing money down the drain (as task setters do), greed, inability to work quickly, and write texts quality. The true “spin doctor” is guided in their work, first of all, by the interests in their organization. And these interests can (and objectively do) come into conflict with the interests of the listed groups.

Do not try to shape us. The PR function has an original style and a lot of tailors.

I will give two quotes that are surprisingly appropriate for today’s topic. The motto of a French woman, “I cannot please everyone without exception because everyone without exception cannot have impeccable taste.” The second is a fable widespread in scientific circles about the reaction of the famous physicist Kapitsa to his unanimous co-optation among the academicians, “Am I so worthless that I do not even have enemies?” A PR specialist is not obliged to respond to the stereotypically distorted perception of their contact audiences regarding the essence of their work. It just has to be effective and efficient both from the point of view of the employer/client and from the point of view of oneself. And of their family, if they have one, of course. They have no other tasks.

Forbes 2013