The Stigma Around Public Relations

640px-Social-media-for-public-relations1Recently an article in PRWeek asked, Is it time to retire the term ‘public relations?’. In my opinion I couldn’t agree more with author Jeffrey Sharlatch’s take that yes, it might be time for public relations to undergo some new branding.

As a current PR major I have heard every stigma that comes with the term. “Oh you’re studying to be a spin doctor?” Or “that seems pretty easy, do you really need a four year degree for that?” Most people are completely unaware of the true breadth of our field, or that PR is anything more than what Aaron Eckhart’s character does in Thank You for Smoking. My own father has asked me multiple times to definite my major, and often by the end of my long winded description always concludes, “so it’s something like advertising then?”

All these stereotypes are probably why most of large PR firms do not even have the words public relations in their name. Weber Shandwick, Edleman, and JeffreyGroup are just some of the many PR firms that use phrases like “communication strategy,” “public engagement,” and “dialogue” to describe the role of a PR firm.

Public relations as a field is undergoing a metamorphosis, and I would not be surprised if the term PR did as well. As firms incorporate more digital work and advertising, engage the public in a two-way conversation and use alternative media outlets it would not be surprising to see a re-branding of the field. Although unfortunately I do not see it ever becoming easier to define and explain for curious relatives.


Who Wants to be on Justin Bieber’s PR Team?

Even the most staunch Bieber fans seem to be getting exasperated with Bieber’s latest arrest. Drag racing a rented yellow Lamborghini while under the influence of drugs and alcohol would be bad for anyone’s reputation, but add the fact that Bieber is 19 with an even younger fan base and you have a crisis communications nightmare. I certainly do not envy his PR team, nor the PR team of any young star with a slew of offenses like this. Lindsey Lohan anyone?

A recent article posted by the NY Daily News interviews crisis communications expert Hunter Fredrick who offers some solid advice on what he would do in a situation like this. The tips are what you’d expect. Have a heart-to-heart with the partying star, get him settled into rehab, and have him show some serious humility once out of rehab.  It seems like every stars go-to-move is rehab when things start to involve repeated mugshots. It made me wonder, what else should high profile celebrities and their PR teams do in the event of a crisis? Paula Deen took to YouTube with a heartfelt apology after accusations of racism, should Beiber issue a similar apology? Who knows. Judging by his recent antics I have a feeling Beiber is confident enough in his fan base to skip the apology and maybe just do a quick rehab stint and call it a day.

All I know is that if I were his publicist I would sit him down and talk about just how much his career could be affected by these antics, and remind him of the pop stars of the past who never managed to rise above their scandals.