Public relations practitioners are often portrayed as being spin doctors; spinning and weaving a story with scant regard to the facts, or even telling downright lies!
Practitioners who practice PR in this way sooner or later get caught out. And it is usually the media that reveals the facts, often creating a corporate crisis in the process.
While telling the truth may seem a simple and straight forward principle to uphold, it is often the case that the version of the truth held by important stakeholders may be different to that of the company. This is where the skilled PR practitioner comes in.
Based in academic theory, there are four models of PR:
1. One-way press agentry/publicity = propaganda (truth is not important)
2. One-way public information = dissemination of information (truth is important)
3. Two-way asymmetrical = scientific persuasion (listening to stakeholders, but tailoring communication to tell the corporate view)
4. Two-way symmetrical = mutual understanding (listening to stakeholders and generating understanding).
If a PR practitioner proposes a propaganda-based campaign, run in the other direction as fast as you can! Modern PR is tending towards engaging with stakeholders and creating mutual understanding of the facts. And the most powerful tool a PR practitioner can have is independent, verifiable facts that support the corporate viewpoint.
Some companies though, may not have a factual corporate viewpoint that can be told without generating a crisis. If this is your company, then you need to get your corporate house in order — sooner or later the facts will leak out and become an issue for you, or even worse end up as front page news.
Remember, the most powerful tool in modern PR is … the truth.