Punching Away at PR

Seems like local journalists at both the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Mitch Schnurman, 7.16.08 column) and the Dallas Morning News (Steve Blow, 7.13.08 column) don't mind beating up on the profession of PR. What'd they use as an excuse? Chesapeake Energy's bold entry into online video to disperse information concerning the Barnett Shale (shale.tv).

Rather than attack corporate PR efforts, maybe these journalists should consider the interesting changes happening with media. It's no secret that many journalists are monitoring blogs and other social media sites to find out what's important to folks these days. The interest in social media clearly explains why Chesapeake Energy and other corporations are deciding to offer their information online through a "pull" technology.

Largely due to social media, public relations in the last several years has been moving to a much more transparent model, one that invites two-way communication. The issue of transparency hasn't been lost on PR professionals. Witness the case study of Edelman's Wal-Marting Across America to understand how badly PR can be practiced. It seems to me that the field of PR - including Richard Edelman who issued an apology on behalf of his agency - took that case (and a couple of others) to heart. Edelman's redoubled their emphasis on ethical practice and issued a call to the entire industry to do the same, resulting in a terribly positive industry response.

PR practitioners are called to perform their jobs ethically and to abide by a Code of Ethics, as laid out by the Public Relations Society of America.

I work with many public relations practitioners and corporate communicators who act ethically and professionally in every sense of the word. I know that in my corner of the world, I work diligently to uphold that standard, going so far as to include an ethics statement on every client contract I sign. In other words, I agree to act ethically, but I also ask my clients to do the same. If they don't or won't agree, we don't do business.

I also believe our local schools, i.e.; Texas Christian University, University of Texas at Arlington and University of North Texas, do an excellent job in raising awareness of basic ethics issues likely to arise, either by requiring students to take a PR ethics course or by consistent discussion of ethical issues within the context of other public relations courses.

I'm proud to be part of a profession that has an ethics code and works to follow it, even to the point of educating new practitioners about ethical issues.

If Schnurman and Blow disagree with Chesapeake's direction, they should offer a meatier argument than not liking the venue (shale.tv) and printing inflammatory statements about PR. For all their posturing, by choosing to attack PR efforts - without a counterbalanced perspective - they're actually communicating more about the current state of journalism than the current state of PR.