Somewhere along the way the PR industry got a bad rap.
Maybe it was one too many gum-snapping airheads masquerading as public relations pros that tarnished our field. They’re a rare and feckless creature, but they have and do exist.
Just as the newspaper business has caricatures of hard-boiled, cigarette-smoking, bourbon-swilling reporters, the public relations industry has its own cartoonish persona that undermines the very real, very important work being done. It’s not fair. It’s not accurate. But it’s there.
Enter the term “PR practitioner.”
Practitioner, you see, is a serious-sounding word that is supposed to add credibility to the profession. PR practitioners aren’t empty-headed—they’re strategic; they’re brainy, and laser-focused on results. And so on.
Never mind that the reality has always been far different from the perception of PR people. The overwhelming majority of PR pros, male and female, are highly educated and extremely capable of driving a client’s business forward. We are the people you want in the room during times of crisis, for example, because we understand how to effectively communicate to all audiences.
PR agencies have long argued, and rightfully so, that their firms deserve a seat at the boardroom table alongside marketers and advertisers to make the case for bigger PR budgets.
Notice I didn’t say marketing practitioners
and advertising practitioners
? Our fellow industries don’t feel the need to overcompensate by tacking on an “official-sounding” word to their jobs. PR people shouldn’t either, and the reality is they don’t.
Show me a PR person who describes himself as a “PR practitioner” at a cocktail party and I’ll show you a person who will be standing alone very quickly.
So, what should we be called? How about we dispense with formality and call ourselves “PR people” or “PR pros”? And when somebody asks what you do for a living, how about we just say “I’m in PR” or “I run PR for my company”?
My fellow PR pros know we’ve earned our stripes again and again, helping businesses achieve serious growth metrics, so can we just stop using silly words in some lame attempt to validate our existence?
Parry Headrick, vice president of marketing and communications at Matter Communications, is a 15-year PR and social media agency person. A version of this post originally appeared on PR Whiteboard.