Black Hat or White? PR People Are the Good Guys!

It is difficult to find accurate pop-culture descriptions of PR pros. Critical views of our profession seem to be everywhere, from programs like “Flack,” which illustrates the worst in celebrity PR, to movies like “Phone Booth” and “Sweet Smell of Success” that negatively portray us as amoral ink hounds.

Of course, these characterizations are untrue and unfair. Today’s PR pros deliver honorable and diligent representation, across many areas of business, and we positively impact society.

Good Things About PR

Business communications is a great starting point when considering the benefits of PR. Absent PR, corporate news would grind to a halt. Imagine a world without quarterly earnings, product and personnel announcements, and mandatory disclosures like 8-K events. Without the constant flow of PR data to the press and public, it would be impossible to know what may be going on in a given market or sector or to oversee and regulate business in a meaningful way. Far from dull, B2B and B2C PR is absolutely essential to commerce.

PR also serves an essential role at every level of government. Public information officers help disseminate news on a variety of impactful subjects, from legislation to public health – and beyond. PR serves a critical role in communicating the important daily facts that we all need, like weather conditions and other public safety information.

The nonprofit and philanthropic sectors also benefit from PR. News from organizations that help advance civil society helps us to understand disasters and other unplanned happenings or may give us insight into advanced thinking, like the latest university research, that we might not otherwise be aware of. Each news tidbit is backed up by a hardworking, ethical PR pro, who delivers this news to the world.

Be Kind to Your PR Pro

There’s a fallacy that PR people aren’t respected by reporters. The smartest journalists know that PR pros help make news happen and that we’re helpful intermediaries between businesses and organizations, the media, and the public. And for all of the criticism that we might endure for the occasional off-target pitch, we help make news happen by providing timely and accurate information.

The most effective PR practitioners understand the value of storytelling and serve as “corporate journalists” who treat their work with a reporter’s viewpoint. Central to these efforts is an understanding of what’s resonant with the reporters, combined with being aware of pop culture and societal trends. Such awareness means that our media approaches are highly tailored and usually very effective.

PR for PR – Absolutely!

When it comes to thinking about PR, we truly are the guys who wear the white hats! Like Uhura in Star Trek, we’re expert communicators who function as diplomats, publicists, researchers and content creators. We’re the people who are at the center, in control of the facts.

I believe that we should do more “PR for PR” and talk about the benefits of PR more often. We’re the “go-to” resource in times of economic uncertainty, we enhance reputations, and we deliver critical messages to key shareholder, customer and employee constituencies.

Despite media portrayals, PR practitioners help make society better. The modern PR pro brings a lot to the table – despite what some may say. For many of you reading this, the time to go shopping for a white Stetson is nigh.

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About the author

Curtis Sparrer is a principal of Bospar PR. He has represented brands like PayPal, Tetris and the alien hunters of the SETI Institute. He is a member of the Forbes Communications Council and has written for Adweek, Forbes, the Dallas Morning News, and PRWeek. He is an active member of the National Lesbian Gay Journalist Association.  Business Insider has twice listed him as one of the Top Fifty in Tech PR.

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