Do the public think PRs are liars?


Roy Greenslade at The Guardian has picked up on a new survey that looks at public attitudes to PR:

According to a study by Ciao Surveys, 60.3% of people in Britain believe that PR officers often lie, while only 3.3% are convinced of the opposite. Additionally, only 17.9% of the respondents think public relations have a positive effect on society, against 26.5% who disagree.

Despite these findings, the survey shows that nearly a third of Britons believe the PR industry is a necessary one at 32.7%, as opposed to only 21.1% who believe it to be unnecessary.

Respondents evidently showed a good understanding of the industry because, when asked about their impression of a PR officer’s main job function, they stated it is strongly related to: media relations (49.6%), event planning (18.2%), advertising (9.5%) and word of mouth marketing (7.9%).

According to Ciao, 55.1% of respondents seem to be aware of the symbiotic relationship between the PR industry and the media, as they declared that the two are biased by each other.

Some people recognise that the media are the main vehicles for the PR industry’s messages, with 13.8% believing that up to half of the content in daily newspapers is initiated by public relations, and a sizeable group think up to 80% of the content in consumer magazines is PR-related.

I’m curious to know how the word “lie” is being defined in this context. Do they mean outright untruths or lying by omission? If PRs were uttering outright porkers to the extent the public appears to believe from this survey, I think we’d know about it. I suspect it is more an unspoken distrust of PRs (apparent) attempt to influence by careful selection (and omission) of facts. I think there is a qualitative difference between simply wanting to put your best case forward and deliberately trying to bamboozle your audience – the latter, surely, an ultimately doomed strategy – the truth will always out.

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