PR: All Glamour, No Substance?

During the first several years of my career, my late mother-in-law never understood what I did in this profession called public relations.  The entertainment industry and media further complicated my frequent attempts to explain PR. 

However, that was nearly 30 years ago and I thought we had made progress since then.   Unfortunately, it’s not just television portrayals that continue to demean our profession.

An important study of PR majors and potential majors by Syracuse University professor Shannon Bowen reveals inaccurate and often cynical points of view about the profession by future practitioners.  Whether you are a student, educator or practitioner, please take 15 minutes to read this study.  It is critically important for us to properly view and position our profession if we ever expect to deserve that proverbial “seat at the table.”

While many have suggested a need for PR to do some PR for itself, this study confirms the urgency to do so.  We can start by reading Dr. Bowen’s study.

Thanks to the Institute for Public Relations for supporting and recognizing this important research. 

3 thoughts on “PR: All Glamour, No Substance?

  1. The complete ignorance of some of those student’s remarks just floors me. Maybe I’m stupid, but if you do it right, PR is not easy. It’s strategic and research based and very fast-paced.

    Often I find myself comparing my problem solving capabilities and analytical thought processes to those of my engineer friend. He often compliments my studies for being science based and thought my chosen career path had substance. From a rocket scientist, I took that to be a good thing. I don’t know – I’m proud I made the choice to go into PR and I didn’t choose to do it because it was easy.

    I think I must have had incredible professors, because I couldn’t relate to the testimonials in the study very well. I’m really surprised that so many students choosing to study it…wel, don’t really have a opinion of it.

    *shrugs* Like I said, floored.

  2. This article hardly shocks. As a graduate student at a top 3 public relations program, I can attest PR- as a strategic management function- is a challenging academic discipline. However, public relations studied and practiced solely at the technician, media relations level will only perpetuate existing stereotypes. “PR professionals” still self-quantifying their worth through number of press releases or averting negative attention from clients not only limit themselves, but the entire field as well.

    I am a staunch believer public relations should have a position at the management table. However, it will take a concerted effort by all practitioners and academics to not only define the aspirations of the field, but to unite towards their achievement.

  3. Thank you, Ron, for highlighting my study. I conducted the research at the University of Maryland so it was a surprise to find those students who were so unaware of the strategy, research, and ethical emphases in pr. It’s vitally important that we address the lack of awareness among potential-future-practitioners, so that we can grow as a discipline and practice.

    If we aren’t transparent about PR, we allow others to define us.

    If we aren’t making ethical arguments and strategic analyses, it’s often left to the legal function alone and our publics are not served.

    Who will be a voice for the voiceless if we won’t?

    Thanks for highlighting my research!

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