Why PR Gets No Respect: Eric Dezenhall


The ever excellent Strumpette has a guest piece from the self-styled US "pit bull of public relations," Eric Dezenhall, on why senior corporate managers have such a low opinion of PR. (Full article here.)

I confess that I have never come across Mr Dezenhall before – but his views are frank and original to say the least.

Here are some of his pearls of wisdom:

"One of the chief complaints of public relations executives is that our
discipline isn’t respected by top corporate management. Is it possible
that PR hasn’t earned that respect? I think so, and will offer one
possible explanation: PR people tend to traffic in Mother Goose crisis
management bromides that are at direct odds with what real world
experience teaches.

There’s no better example of this than that post-Watergate
canard that if Nixon has just “fessed up” and apologized, the break-in
scandal would have gone away. The PR industry’s evangelical belief in
the mea culpa and its attendant rhetoric don’t square with what real
world experience teaches, and people in positions of responsibility
know it.
Had Nixon fessed up and apologized, he would have been quickly
impeached, tried in a court of law and convicted, not to mention been
dismembered in Lafayette Park."

"In Western culture, it’s understandable that we tie apology to
forgiveness. This is especially tempting since the public relations
industry, in a desperate attempt to win respect from the broader
culture, preaches this line so zealously
. Hard evidence from the PR war
zones, however, suggests that apologies work best when the violation is
either aberrant or isolated. As for defusing more chronic battles, one
is more likely to get out alive by entering the fray and navigating the
cross-currents rather than assuming a swiftly spun apology will win the
day. Seasoned executives and general counsels understand the
vicissitudes of human nature and the marketplace and are more likely to
respect PR counselors who do, too."

Pretty, it ain’t – but you can see how his Machivaeli-style PR real politick gives him some clout in the US.

Alternatively, you could argue that Dezenhall paints a very ugly picture of top level corporate America – and their legal advisors – and thus in order to be respected, PR needs to behave in the same fashion.

You takes your choices…..

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