Career websites have PR all wrong

Earlier this month, Richard Edelman wrote about PR’s ongoing perception problem, or should I call it our “image”?

Here’s another take.

steelerlogo.jpgWhile watching my Steelers take it on the chin last night, I visited a handful of the career-oriented websites. You know, the ones high school or college students might visit to explore their futures.

Overall, the definitions of PR on these sites are heavily slanted toward spin, publicity and promotion. You’ll find little if any focus on ethics, social responsibility or two-way communication. This isn’t to say all the career sites are totally off base, just some of them, and they are way off!

Here are some excerpts, combined with my comments (in italics).


“PR, which is also known as communications, is all about relating (or communicating) to the public—a relationship generallywetfeetlogo.gif mediated by the press. Unlike an advertising agency, a PR agency communicates a company’s message to the press, rather than directly to the client’s target market.”

Many career-info sites identify media relations as the primary job of PR. I’m old enough to remember when it was that way, and I worked for plenty of old-schoolers who embraced the view. Apparently they retired to write for the career websites.

“Because of their role in generating media coverage, PR professionals are sometimes thought of as disingenuous, deceitful, hucksterish flacks trying simultaneously to pull the wool over the eyes of their clients and the public at large. That’s inaccurate.”

Whew! I was really worried there, but I’ve always admired modifier triads.

“The fact is, in today’s business world, every company, CEO, celebrity, and association wants to show the best possible face to the public, and all of them are using public relations to do so.”

God forbid they also use it to be truthful and to build meaningful relationships with key constituencies! At, we PR types are just a bunch of spin doctors.

From the career profiles section of the Princeton Review.

“A public relations specialist is an image shaper. Their (sic) job is to generate positive publicity for their client and enhance their reputation.”

Note the emphasis on “image” and publicity. Also note that pronoun-antecedent agreement is not enforced in the Ivy League.

“Though the job often involves the dissemination of information, some view this cynically as “spinprinceton.gif doctoring.” There is an old saying about PR that ‘Advertisers lie about the product. Public relations people lie about the company.”

D’ya get the sense that Princeton’s career counselors don’t want their grads to pursue PR as a career track. Given the flippant tone of the piece, that’s just as well. We have enough smart asses in this business.

“The content of the work is constantly changing and unforeseen challenges arise every day. As one public relations person explained, “In addition to the standard duties, a PR person might have to shepherd an alcoholic and half-mad (but brilliant) author through a twenty-city interview tour or try to put a warm ‘n fuzzy spin on the company’s latest oil-spill.”

Hmmm. If their business schools stressed ethics as much as our public relations programs do, the world would be a better place. And you know, I think I did the tour for that drunken author when he was in Buffalo. We had chicken wings at the Anchor Bar with a few Old Viennas.

From the College Board‘s career profiles:

“Images don’t happen by themselves. Before celebrities step out on the red carpet at Academy Awards time, every detail — clothes, accessories, makeup, and hair — is carefully crafted. But image management isn’t reserved for Hollywood stars. It’s a tool used by every political figure, government agency, or business you can think of.

“If you’d like to be the person pulling the strings behind the scenes, a major in public relations (PR) may be just the ticket.”

And for that job, you can probably do it with an 800 on your SAT! But forget the SAT; your mascara is running. Cue the PR chick.

From They got this part right!

“People skills are essential in advertising and public relations careers. Jobs in these fields require close association with clients that (sic) are often demanding and difficult to work with.”

Clients difficult and demanding? Pshaw!

“Stress levels soar in advertising and PR careers due to continuous deadlines. Late nights and weekends are often spent working to meet upcoming deadlines.”

And that, my friends is why I joined the academy. Now I stay up late at composing blog posts and hoping someone will notice.

I may be crazy, but I’m not stressed!


3 Responses to Career websites have PR all wrong

  1. Laura Capp says:

    Go Steelers!!

  2. Guess Who? says:

    Did you watch the Steelers take it on the chin again last Sunday afternoon?

  3. No, actually. I was busy blogging.

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