You know what bothers me the most about my chosen profession? It’s the negative image of the communications/PR professional. But not in the way you think I mean.
To be sure, there is a prevailing derogatory stereotype of PR pros. Just about every euphemism for PR practitioner has negative connotations. Spin Doctor. Flak. Bulls&$t artist. I challenge you to tell me one positive (and widely used) euphemism for someone in this line of work. And is it really a wonder? With stories of PR agencies pulling shenanigans like this (reported earlier this month at the Bad Pitch Blog), it’s no surprise that people have less than lofty opinions of our kind.
The fact that these stereotypes exist is something I came to terms with years ago. I can’t change macro-attitudes about the PR profession, but I can influence the people within my own circles; letting them see that idealism, good business practice, and something I like to call “mensch-iness” does have a place in our world (in fact it actually leads to more successful outcomes).
No. It’s not the external negative image that is so troubling to me – it’s the negative self-image that is the real tragedy. Kids out of college are entering PR agencies or communications departments and learning that it’s fine to be self-deprecating about our profession. In earlier jobs, I would often hear PR folks covering for a lack of knowledge or professionalism with a constituent by saying, “apologies, I’m just a PR flak.” What is that?!?
Hey… it’s not okay to refer to ourselves as flaks. Take some pride in what it is that we’re doing, or at least what we should be doing: helping to communicate inspiring ideas and stories to communities. And helping clients navigate a complex and ever-changing world of traditional and social media. Without taking pride in what we do, we won’t ever love our work. And if we embrace and perpetuate the negative stereotypes of this profession from within, than external attitudes will never change. I’m just touching the surface with this post, but needed to get this off my chest.
I know I’m not the only one who cringes when a peer, even jokingly, disparages our profession. Unfortunately, I think we tend to be the silent majority. Who else feels the way I do?