Same ol’ same ol’: PR has a PR problem

Whatever your political view on the war in Iraq, no one can dispute the critical role that public relations has played in the initial justification and ongoing need for military presence in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, the reputation of PR is being dragged down with the Bush administration’s struggles in the Iraqi war. The latest involves high-profile stories of combat heroism that have been debunked, not by an inquisitive media, but by those involved or their families. Jessica Lynch’s story of a brave female soldier unloading her last bullets in a firefight before being dramatically rescued by U.S. forces has turned out be nothing more than Hollywood-like storytelling by the U.S. military (and suspicions of higher White House involvement). The second is former NFL star Pat Tillman, who was killed accidentally by his fellow soldiers, and not by Iraqis, as the military reported publicly and to the family for months. Panel Hears About Falsehoods in 2 Wartime Incidents – New York Times

If PR was a brand, its tagline would be “spin” instead of “communication” in today’s environment. Worse, governments and military have taken to outright lying in the name of public relations. Truthiness would be funnier if it wasn’t so true and damaging. PR is increasingly having the bell hung around its neck, and it emboldens critics who characterize PR professionals and their efforts as sleazy and dishonorable.

On the flipside, this also gives credence to those calling for the PR industry to formally raise its level of professionalism through a certification process — not unlike accountants or engineers, — with organizational penalties and standards that go beyond the accreditation process currently available through national/international organizations like CPRS and IABC.

ISO 9000 anyone?


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