As I looked down at these final two questions of my marketing exam, I became (surprisingly) somewhat defensive.
1. How can PR professionals defend their careers when many people think of them as ‘spin doctors’ who cover up their company’s mistakes and warp public perception?
2. Some people say the advertising industry is unethical, and in some cases unhealthy, for the majority of society. Why do you think people feel this way, and what is the true role of advertising?
As a PR/Advertising major, I’m obviously not naïve to these kinds of stereotypes and misconceptions in my industry – but never had a situation presented itself where I was forced to defend my position or worth to another individual. I have to admit, I was stumped for a second. I, of course, inherently understood the value of PR and advertising. But how do you convey that passion and appreciation on the spot? After a few moments, I realized I could ”spin” the situation (since that’s what we do, right?) into a positive one, and came up with some pretty convincing arguments.
It is not a PR practitioner’s job to lie. It’s to be honest, consistent and accurate.
Public relations efforts strive to accomplish just what the word implies– the development of relationships with various, targeted publics. If implemented correctly, PR is an effective, cost-efficient tool that complements and emphasizes key messages communicated by other forms of media. PR plays a vital role in a company’s brand, identity and personality. And as we’ve all been taught, but easily forget: you’re only as good as your brand. Perception is everything in our competitive marketplace, cluttered and fragmented more each and every year. Think of where half the world’s companies would be today if it weren’t for the roles played by crisis communicators, event planners, media relations specialists and spokesmen/women. Would it be difficult to distinguish what makes a company or brand truly unique, reliable or important?
So, in a nutshell: PR is reputation management, not manipulation. It’s communicating, not cheating.
Moving on to advertising’s role in society…
Although both industries intrigue me, I’m much more passionate about the world of advertising. Advertising allows me develop a relationship with a brand that extends far beyond the tangible product. It’s an industry that capitalizes on human emotion and a generation’s desire for creativity and out-of-the box experiences. To put it simply, advertising helps me decide. It would be nearly impossible for me to fall in love with a product or service without the personalities they promote via ads. I understand how humor, fear and sex appeals can be offensive – these three things are definitely not universal. However, it is within these controversial boundaries that some of the most original, thought-provoking concepts arise. What may seem “risky” today will be discussed in twenty years as an industry (and societal) revolution. Advertising trends change as society and culture shift, and that’s why it’s so impactful. With so many different functions – inform, educate, entertain, promote – advertisers are undoubtedly some of the most powerful, influential people in the job force.
Although somewhat shocking at first, I’m glad my professor forced me to think about why I’m doing what I do. Who knows, maybe a potential employer will ask me these types of questions one day? Guess I’ll be prepared!
So, how would you have answered my exam questions?
– Lauren Fisher