Steering The Next Generation In The Right Direction

It’s always rewarding to be asked by PR students and young professionals to provide perspectives on the industry. In recent days a junior from Eastern Michigan University contacted me for a paper she is writing seeking commentary on thoughts put forth in a speech her class was studying by public relations consultant and author Fraser Seitel.

In most cases I agreed with Mr. Seitel’s assessment of our field today, including his contention that the practice of PR has never been more valuable. In a world of 24-hour news cycles and social media where almost anyone with a cell phone and twitter account can break “news”, public scrutiny has never been more intense and reputation management more difficult or important.

It is also a time that ethics are paramount, including how a PR practitioner deals with the media, clients and the community at large. I have heard tales recently of one firm trying to butter up a particular reporter by attempting to hire that reporter’s spouse for work. In another story, a public relations agency, fired by one client, approached that client’s competitor and proceeded to share privileged informational work product.

In Seitel’s speech, he speaks about the “darker side” of public relations – an industry perception, which the behavior I have described perpetuates. It is just such actions that hurt everyone involved – beyond the immediate participants – steering potential clients away from seeking out PR counsel while giving the field in general an undeserved black eye. To be sure, at Tanner Friedman, we prefer to look at and subscribe to “the bright side.”

The collegian and I discussed just such dynamics in detail during our more than hour conversation. We chatted about the industry’s good, bad and ugly (mostly good) and how to strive for taking the field to new heights and a rewarding career. It’s a talk I’m always ready to give.