Common Misconceptions of Public Relations

Being home for summer vacation means running into old family, friends, and acquaintances who love to ask me what I am studying at school. When I say public relations, I get a few different responses. Sometimes, it is a simply a vague, “oh, how nice,” and other times I get, “Oh, you are a spin doctor, all press is good press!” and more often I get, “Oh, so you are studying communications.” When I go on to explain what PR really is, the stigma and common misconceptions do not change.

The view of PR professionals as “spin doctors” is a hard common misconception to correct, especially with the TV show The Spin Crowd and other PR focused shows such as Kell on Earth and PR. The Spin Crowd follows Jonathan Cheban who is the head of Command PR as they open new offices in LA. This show portrays PR professionals as part of the “spindustry” who focus solely on large-scale parties, celebrities and their images. It even gets personal when Cheban pressures an employee to get plastic surgery to fit the Hollywood image. Kell on Earth focuses on powerhouse Kelly Cutrone, and further adds to the stereotypes of PR.  The employees at People’s Revolution wear only black, work high-end fashion shows, and have a jet set life, complete with celebrity connections and “A” list parties. Finally, the short-lived TV series PR needs no other explanation other than their tagline was, “You know they’re lying when their lips move”. This tagline alone reinforces the misconceptions that are often associated with PR, making it harder to explain with every TV show focused on the topic. 

When I say I am studying public relations, it is difficult to explain how I do not want to do fashion PR, I wear colors other than black and I do, in fact, tell the truth. I make sure to specify that it is not generic communications and truly identify what I want to do and the work it will entail – not planning celebrities’ parties and lying to get to the top.

How do you explain public relations to your family and friends? 

This guest blog was written by PRowl Public Relations staff member Brianna Rooney

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