From across the pond, there’s some discussion
online about the image of PR people as non-
intellectuals who are doers rather than thinkers.
Heather Yaxley, a British PR practitioner and
educator who is an active contributor to the PR
Conversations blog, asks in her own blog,
“Are you too smart to work in PR?”
She decries what she sees as a decline in
emphasis on intellectual capacity as a key element
for everyday work in public relations.
“I’m beginning to believe,” she writes, “that the
majority of modern (PR) practitioners view PR
as a non-intellectual trade, where craft skills count
most, along with a friendly personality and a
preference to spend time churning out releases
and Tweets rather than thinking about anything
more important they should be doing.”
In my experience, actually, I’ve found that PR
often requires solid strategic thinking. It can be a
lot more than press releases and parties, but
unfortunately those small slices of what some of
us do in PR is too often how our entire field is seen
by others. Part of the reason is that’s generally
how PR people are portrayed on TV and in the
movies, like the character Samantha Jones in
“Sex and the City” – a party thrower who knows
media people and calls in favors to media to do,
or not do, stories on her clients.
The heavy thinking and development of strategy
just isn’t as sexy to portray in films, so the focus
gets put on the “glamorous” aspects of what some
of us do. So what type of young person does that
image attract? Kids who want to throw great parties
and hobnob with celebrities and celeb wannabees.
And the smarter young people simply may not be
attracted to that sort of work, and we’re left with
less than the cream of the crop looking at PR as a
possible career choice.
We can’t control who popular media portray us,
but we can, as an industry, get accurate information
out there about what we really do in our jobs.
It’s something I’d love to see PRSA (Public Relations
Society of America) and other trade groups take on as
an ongoing project. And better education -- at the
college level for starters, and also within PR agencies –
can help create a more realistic understanding of what
So if bright young people think
they are too smart to work in PR,
it's really our own fault. It's up to
us to change that perception.
Of note: Heather tells me
of a new site that is a
collaborative project by PR
educators and practitioners,
seeking to create a resource
of how PR is depicted in film, TV and books worldwide.