From Madmen to PR’s Holy Grail

All the hoopla about Madmen, AMC’s new show that covers the men of advertising circa the late 50’s, reminded me that there is no recognized culture of PR akin to the culture of advertising.

Dating back to the days of the Mary Tyler Moore show – her husband on show, Rob Petrie, was an ad man – the public has held a fascination with the people who create advertising, despite the ambivalent feelings people generally have about ads.

Ad men were romanticized back then.  Although the image has been updated, and is certainly less male dominated, it is still seen to be a glamorous field.

And the image people have of the PR field is…. ???

Then, I reminded myself that PR as a profession is on the upswing (please see my March post on the Fusion Forum: PR Props).

I was also pleased to see good PR for PR in the Business Week article: The Corporate Image: What Price Reputation?.  It posited the startling thesis that a company’s reputation can affect its stock price.  Not a revelation in and of itself, but upon reading further it really did get interesting.  It reported on the growing trend of turning reputation management into a science, and cited research isolating and identifying the specific premium (or drag) that a company’s reputation can add to (or subtract from) its stock price.

The article cited work that research firms like Delahaye (you will recall I interviewed author and Delahaye – now Cision – Sr. VP Mark Weiner on Fusion Forum) are doing to research image and steer clients to the most effective messages.

Here’s an interesting quote from the article:

"There are plenty of
data measuring the visibility and credibility of a company," says Low.
"But there have been no data showing how communications adds value to a
company." Says corporate communications professor Paul A. Argenti of
Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, also a CCW partner: "If we can get
this right, we have found the holy grail of communications."

The reporter concludes:

While these
experiments are intriguing, the real test of faith in the new science
of spin will come when somebody risks serious money on it. Suppose a
hedge fund really does unravel the secret that can boost a company’s
value simply by turning around its reputation—and uses that information
to buy and reshape that company’s image?

Heady stuff indeed!  OK, so there’ not cult of PR.  But I am resting easier knowing there may be a hedge fund pot at the end of the rainbow.


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2 Responses to From Madmen to PR’s Holy Grail

  1. Katie Paine says:

    The problem is that they still call PR the “science of spin” and this entire concept is postulated on the notion that PR’s role is in the manipulation of media rather than on building relationships. As long as all we are doing is measuring the media, which is what Delahaye does, we will be seen as spinmeisters and flacks, and the culture reflects that in movies like Thank You for Smoking and Wag the Dog. The reality is that that paradigm is dying, replaced by the new values-based and relationship-based social media. If PR can ever understand social media, they have a chance of rescuing its reputation. But if people continue to think of PR as a way to manipulate stock price and society without any benefit, I hope there isn’t ever a cult of PR

  2. Thanks for your comment, Katie, I appreciate your contribution to the forum.
    I agree that the PR paradigm is in flux and have blogged extensively about this here, as well as about the importance of social media.
    I have a somewhat more pragmatic view about what the profession should be about. Sure, relationship-building based on shared values is key.
    However one person’s “spin” and “manipulation of media” is another’s just communicating more effectively, telling a better story – one that resonates – from the same set of facts.
    It is a war of information and ideas and I sleep very well knowing that I use the tools at my disposal to get the desired messages out for myself, my agency and clients.
    Of course, this needs to be done within an established set of ethical guidelines, another topic I have blogged about here.

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