Fighting PR’s Public Relations Problem

Floyd Norris had a nice article in the NY Times last Friday about the state of the so called "death tax" New Life for the Death Tax.   Unfortunately he (probably quite unintentionally) took a broadside at the PR profession in the process.

He wrote: "Perhaps the greatest public relations coup of this decade was the persuasion of millions of Americans that repealing the estate tax was a populist cause."

So here we find ourselves again (see my earlier post: PR Wars and other Problems).  PR and its practitioners by association are positioned as devious instruments of persuasion.  Why not call it a policy coup, or ideological win for the right?  Although there may well have been PR people in the mix there somewhere, there were also politicians, political advisers, and other enablers (yes even some journalists) who probably ran with "death tax" versus "estate tax," thus framing the issue in a way that sounded populist.

In fact it was the right wing wordsmith and consultant Frank Luntz who coined the phrase "death tax" – not some PR firm or consultant in the traditional sense (see What is the Death Tax? on Nobosh Answers).

For those who think I am being too sensitive, please remember that one of the missions of this blog is to encourage better PR for the PR profession.  I wave the banner for PR, educate and help defend it when needed.   It is not called Flack's Revenge for nothing.  And, as I have written before, PR gets knocked through association with wars, coups and problems.

Floyd Norris is in good company, I don't mean to pick on him.   I thought I'd try a little exercise and search a periodicals database (Factiva, in this case) to determine how often the following offending phrases were used in the media over the past year:

PR coup: 674
PR problem: 501
PR war: 372

I haven't read through each article  (I do have a day job), but I would venture to say that in none of the cases was any blood actually spilled, or governments toppled.  And probably precious few problems that were caused solely by PR.

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