Declaring Independence from PR Stereotypes

Image: Chaiwat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Those words are emblazoned on the piece of paper that started it all back in 1776-the Declaration of Independence. The United States continues to celebrate the declaration’s place in history each summer on the 4th of July, the universal day of fireworks.

Living in Philadelphia, it’s hard not to remember the reason why this day is celebrated. The Declaration of Independence, while not physically in the city, is around in spirit.

With this in mind, I thought it would be fitting to declare my independence from common stereotypes in public relations.

These are terms and analogies that are unproductive to the public relations profession, and yet, they persist.

While I may not work in straight-up PR anymore, I still consider my work relevant to the communications profession, where storytelling, clarity, and relationship building are important elements.

So, in honor of this nation’s forefathers, here is my short list of PR stereotypes and terms that make my skin crawl. From this day forward I am hitherto shrugging them off:

Snake oil salesman - aside from the assumption that only men can sell snake oil, I find this analogy to be antiquated and irrelevant. It implies PR folks are trying to sell the public something they don’t need, that we’re scam artists. I’m not much for flim-flam, but dishonesty has never been a part of any job description to which I’ve signed my name.

Lipstick wearing pigs - the only lipstick wearing pig that I like is Miss Piggy. So, unless this is in reference to The Muppets, it’s yet another term implying that PR folks simply dress up garbage. Although the term has crept its way into the business vernacular, most of my colleagues and I would rather seek solutions as opposed to this option.

Spin doctors – wait, wasn’t that the name of a popular alt-rock group circa 1992? Again, the term implies that PR folks are dishonest and try to dupe the public on purpose. Really, guys, really? Dishonesty happens in more than just the PR profession. PR and politics aside, I think we can get beyond assuming everything we read or see on the news is the result of spin.

Samantha Jones - sorry, SITC fans, but this is one of my most despised caricatures of a successful woman working in PR. It didn’t matter how well Samantha pulled off high-profile event or dealt with her clients, she will always be known as a cougar. It’s also too bad that when I first told people I worked in PR a few years back, they’d answer, “Oh, like Samantha in Sex in the City.” I guess I can hand it to her for elevating the visibility of women in PR, but not for much more.

What about you? Do you have any professional stereotypes you want to declare your independence from this summer?

June 29, 2011. Tags: , , , , . public relations.

5 Comments

  1. A Little Birdy Told Me…Week of 11/14/11 « PR in Pink replied:

    [...] I’ve assailed on stereotypes of women in PR before, so it was comforting to read Adrianna Giuliani’s take on the concept of “PR girls” in her column for PR Week. She makes a good point—the media has a big hand in the perpetuation of these stereotypes and characterizations, many of which represent a small fraction of the work that women in PR really do. [...]

  2. 2012 PR33 – Top PR / Communications Blogs « Paul Roberts on PR replied:

    [...] with snort. It’s not all about humor, her posts are smart and insightful like when she is declaring independence from PR stereotypes. Her sense of humor and her writing style are a joy. She also gets extra credit for staying [...]

  3. Nicole B. replied:

    Krista, so glad I found your blog/this post in Paul Roberts’ 2012 PR33 list. I’ve just been in the PR industry since January and I agree – it is baffling that these stereotypes are still common-place. In the most basic sense, the PR that I’ve been practicing/witnessing involves working with companies to get their messages out to the public; a good deal of this involves media relations. While we do spend time picking the best words/phrasing to relay these messages, that isn’t “spinning” the message, it’s being good communicators and writers! But as I write this reply, I’m realizing that for the public, perhaps “spinning a story” and “crafting a message” are pretty much the same thing.

    • Krista replied:

      Hi Nicole– thanks for sharing your experience working in PR! A lot of these stereotypes stem from the problem that PR doesn’t do enough PR for itself. But with smart people like you in the field, that could change :)

  4. Let’s chat! | A Novice View into the Massive World of Communication replied:

    [...] oil salesmen, lipstick wearing pigs, spin doctors, or Samantha Jones? Check out this blog called PR in Pink about dispelling common PR [...]

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