”PR is central to freedom of speech in a modern democracy. Love it or loathe it, PR is here to stay” – Goldsworthy & Morris.
I find it particularly ironic that PR – the management of reputation – still has such a stigma. It can change the image of an organisation, so why can’t it do it for itself? Are the media partly to blame for reinforcing the negative propagandist image? Look in any newspaper and you’ll find some form of it, even the newspapers are writing about other news corporations using propaganda. Take this article in The Telegraph for example, they note how the BBC has been accused of ”peddling propaganda for the Queen”.
Personally, I believe PR will never fully detach itself from the negative stigma it holds today. Even if all the practitioners in the world behaved ethically, I still believe the public would need some convincing just because its roots are deeply fixed in the history of propaganda.
What does that mean for the future of PR?
PR is definitely here to stay. A world without PR would be a world in which new ideas and ideologies wouldn’t possibly be able to emerge. Right now PR is growing from strength to strength thanks to our little friend (or should I say gigantic friend?!) the internet.
The internet has opened up a new realm of news consumption, one where brands cannot hide. If a customer or client isn’t happy with a product, they can inform their friends who can then inform their friends until the news spreads across nations via platforms like social media. It’s harder for companies to hide, which means they need somebody to manage it all and that’s where we come in!
Of course, the internet is the perfect place for the likes of the propagandist to spread rumors, ideas and create perceptions, whilst hiding behind a computer screen and watching as it saturates the web. Which means, more than ever, practitioners have got to strive to be ethically responsible.
Ethical PR can be beneficial to everyone, as Bill Gay writes in Public Relations Professionals on LinkedIn; ”our first obligation is to the broader society and to the truth. Ethical public relations can further public discussion and assist the public in making proper decisions”.
As noted by Moloney, ”PR is treated as a progressive evolution to better times”. And now with such a big emphasis on ethics in the study of PR, I hope that in the next 10, 20 or even 30 years I’ll be able to say I’m extremely proud to work in such an ethically responsible discipline that is public relations.