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What is it with The Economist and
public relations?
So far this year the magazine has written two diatribes
against public relations practitioners, which in its latest outbreak leeringly refers to PR people as "flacks," slime-slingers," members of the
"dark side" and "urban foxes" among other love terms.
Whatever happened to objectivity and reality?
The problem, according to The
Economist is that there are just too many of these "brazen flacks," who it mistakenly
identifies as men, when in fact there is a predominance of women in the
profession, and who it says spend their days"hassling reporters to run crummy
The article besides having a noxious
tone sounds like the writer has imbibed some cynical journalists' take on PR
from 80 years ago. In fact, it quotes a 1928 book by Edward Bernay, one of the
pioneers in public relations, as evidence of the profession's spinning creed.
That's kind of like referring to
some early medical book about blood-letting and claiming that defines the
surgeon's trade. Give me a break.
I'd like to suggest that the author
of the piece talk to some of the women dominating the field of public relations
today since he/she continue to think it's a male-dominated field. As starters,
here are two greats lists of PR women (and I'm deeply honored to be listed on
both). One is compiled by the generous, astute Valentine Belonwu (!/bigmoneywebs) and the other by the awesome, terrifically hard-working duo of Cheryl Burgess (@ckburgess) and Tom
Pick (@tompick).
As a long-time B2B public relations
person, I can wholeheartedly say that there has never in my more than 20 years
in the field been as exciting time to be in public relations. That's because
the landscape of PR has expanded thanks to the Internet. Today, for example,
there are seemingly a zillion places to get the word out. This includes
everything from posting an article on your own blog or website, tweeting it,
posting it on LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media; talking it up on a
video, in a podcast, in a webinar, on other blogs. In fact, if you can't tout
your own horn today, you're doing something terribly wrong.
And, of course, there is the media. But a
legitimate PR person's job is not, nor has it ever been, "to pitch a crummy
story" as the Economist suggests but to turn what might have been a crummy
story into something that engages. For example, I love a story I read years ago
about some scientists in Africa who were training elephants. This was a new
training program and they were having a day where they were showing what the
elephants had accomplished. A PR person turned this into the First Ever Graduating
Class of Elephant University and made what might have been ho hum memorable. In
my book that's creative. And that's the job of any PR person worth his or her
salt. What do you think? I'd love to hear from you.
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Wendy Marx, B2B PR Specialist, Marx Communications