North America

USA - New York

New York
New York
275 Seventh Ave, Suite 706
New York, NY 10001
P: +1.646.722.3041

USA - Detroit/ Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor / Detroit
Ann Arbor/ Detroit
309 Maynard Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
+1 734 913 0348



Frankfurt / Mainz
Kaiserstrasse 22-24
55116 Mainz
+49 6131 2180 0

United Kingdom

58 St. Aldates
Oxford, OX1 1ST
+44 1865 324 911


Badenerstraße 549
8048 Zurich
+41 43 210 97 46

South America


Sao Paulo
Av. Roque Petroni Júnior, 1089
São Paulo, SP Brasil – 04707-900
+55 11 3033 5858

Asia Pacific


Rm.306, Bldg. 2
Lujiazui Software Park No. 100, Lane 91, E'shan Rd. Pudong Shanghai 200127, China
+86 21 6859 2099


Office no. 3, 14th floor German Center
Building No. 9B -DLF Cyber City
Phase-III Gurgaon - INDIA
+91 124 463 6045

What is Wrong with PR?

Posted On March 26, 2018

By Jennifer Sanchis

This is probably PR’s greatest irony: PR suffers from bad reputation and image issues. Although the discipline has been institutionalised for years now, the industry is still facing an existential crisis that most practitioners and professional bodies are actively tackling. I wanted to look at the most crucial challenges and misconceptions which, according to me, are at the epicentre of “the PR problem”.

PR shouldn’t be another one-way communication channel that organisations use to serve their own interests

First published in 1999, the visionary authors of the highly impactful Cluetrain Manifesto were merciless when talking about PR’s credibility issue:

“Everyone – including many PR people – senses that something is deeply phony about the profession […]. Take the standard computer-industry press release. With few exception, it describes an “announcement” that was not made, for a product that was not available, quoting people who never said anything, for distribution to a list of people who mostly consider it trash.”

One of the greatest aspects that differentiate us from advertising and marketing is that our ultimate goal is to represent the interests of an organisation’s stakeholders. Interestingly, the same authors also suggested that “the best of the people in PR are not PR types at all. They understand they aren’t censors, they’re the company’s best conversationalists.”

The marketing mind-set, which became popular in the mid-1990s, embodied the linear process of myopic, short-sighed and tactical product-orientated campaigns. Moreover, corporate branding was a case of understanding ‘who we are’ and ‘what we stand for’, and, as a sense giver, sending the message out there.

Meanwhile, PR grew in acceptance while promoting a more strategic, cross-functional and holistic approach. I find that a lot of practitioners today can be too focused on their own brand rather than understanding their key players’ interest.

PR is too “risk averse”

This is another weakness that PR practitioners need to address. In #FuturePRoof, Matthew Hopkins, Chief Executive of Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, made an interesting observation:

“I sometimes observe organisations, especially in the NHS, not having the conversations publicly that they need to because they are too focused on reputation management rather than driving improvement. We need to move beyond that and have the conversations that count.”

Let’s not be scared of the noise. Many voices should participate in the shaping of an organisation’s mission and vision in order to grow and improve. Corporate messaging should be part of a dynamic process, so let’s be more transparent and open!

PR must move away from impersonal communication

“[Organisations] will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.” Cluetrain Manifesto

As we embody organisations and brands, let’s not forget that we are, first, all human, operating in environments filled with people, to serve other people. Typically, organisations build their communication using phrases such as ‘a spokesperson said’, or ‘a representative communicated that’. Impersonal tone makes it hard for the public to relate to a statement.

Instead, some leaders in the industry are advocating the case for plain language in spoken and written communication, whilst also helping leaders express themselves with empathy and humanise their vocabulary more generally. Moreover, whilst language and tone is crucial, granting attention to names other than the CEO’s help humanise communication and restore PR’s sacred role towards people. As Stephen Waddington, Chief Engagement Officer at Ketchum, wrote: “Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humour.”

We should seek to understand how PR is being done in practice as opposed to in theory, whilst asking ourselves what our organisation’s goals are and how we plan to work towards them. Whilst it might be true that PR has become discredited by the general public and many journalists, the industry is increasingly valued by the public as well as by private and third sector brands. So, if your answers are not the ones you had expected, let’s gather, discuss and work together to help reshape the image of PR.

This article was original posted to Jennifer Sanchis is a Senior Account Executive at PRIME Research.

Share on Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn
Email this to someone

Share this to social

You may also be interested in

How Integrated Measurement Can Revolutionize PR

Written by Nadin Vernon. Editor's Note: This article was first published as a chapter within AMEC's free eBook "Demonstrating the Value of Communication" Finding new ways to implement strategies is at the heart of those who embrace innovation and adapt to changes in the industry. Technologies already available, as well as those being developed as we speak, have the potential to revolutionize existing methods. There has never been a better time for PR measurement. Working agency-side, you can let automation take care of the legwork and use valuable analyst time to interpret results and add value by storytelling. If you’re in-house, looking to set up your own program, you can benefit in the same way. There are hundreds of easy-to-use tools available that will help you on ...

Learn more

The Big Deal About Big Data & PR

by Amanda Peterson Big data has become one of the most significant trends in modern technology. It’s no exaggeration to say that today’s society is generating massive amounts of information. In fact, studies have predicted that more than 90 percent of data in the world was created in the past two years. Such a wide scope of insight can be extremely useful across a range of industries, which is why many businesses are finding ways to take advantage of it. The field of public relations is no exception to the list of industries using big data to their advantage. Though PR is commonly recognized as a creative field, it is strongly supported by a backbone of research. Utilizing data is becoming increasingly important in PR because of its ability to improve campaign performance and generate ...

Learn more

Der CEO im politischen Spannungsfeld

In der anhaltenden Debatte um Zuwanderung und Integration halten sich die Manager der großen Unternehmen meist vornehm zurück. Wagt sich ein CEO aus der Deckung, kann er indes heftig in die Schusslinie geraten. Der Vorstandsvorsitzende der Siemens AG hat sich im vergangenen Frühjahr pointiert in die bis heute nicht abebbende Diskussion eingemischt. Er reagierte auf eine Äußerung der AfD-Vorsitzenden Alice Weidel, die im Deutschen Bundestag von "Kopftuchmädchen, Messermännern und anderen Nichtsnutzen" schwadronierte. Kaeser reagierte entschlossen und eindeutig in einem Tweet: "Lieber Kopftuchmädchen als Bund Deutscher Mädel." Für den Siemens-Chef war sein öffentlicher Beitrag eine "Herz- und Kopfentscheidung". Enorme Aufmerksamkeit Mit einigen wenigen Zeilen hat der Siemens-Chef ein ...

Learn more