Dear PR pros: Time to take our responsibility more seriously

As PR pros, it's our responsibility to stand up for our industry. If we don't, we're all riding on a sinking ship. (Image from









Dear PR pros: You have a responsibility. I do too. We all do…those of us PR pros who care about our discipline. How it started. Where it’s been. And where it’s going.

This week, it’s been speaking out against ad value equivalency (AVE), which my friends Shonali Burke and Chuck Hemann have done admirably. Next week, it will be something else. The age-old impressions conversation. Or maybe a debate about PR vs publicity, which the uber-smart Gini Dietrich and Kellye Crane recently addressed.

If you take anything away from this post, please let it be this: PR is not just about publicity. PR is not the red-headed stepchild to marketing and advertising. PR is not about writing an awesome press release. Or coming up with a super quote that incorporates several key messages and that an executive can read off a piece of paper to a reporter. PR is not about e-mail blasts and getting that A-list blog hit.

PR is about strategic counsel. PR is about reaching your target consumer. PR is about building relationships and achieving objectives. And if you aren’t approaching PR with that mindset, if you aren’t calling it to peoples’ attention when they promote the above PR stereotypes…then you’re doing yourself and our industry a disservice.

But more importantly, you’re not living up to your responsibility.

I had a conversation with another PR pro I have a lot of respect for today in light of the aforementioned AVE avalanche. Jeremy Pepper said something to me today that really made me think. His point was as PR pros, we need to always be advocates for our industry and not just take a proactive stance when there’s an attack.

I think Jeremy is absolutely right. And that a lot of us PR pros, including me at times, aren’t holding up our part of the bargain.

There’s a scene from the movie The Natural. Roy Hobbs (played by Robert Redford) is talking with his girlfriend (played by Glenn Close) about the years of his baseball career he lost because he was shot when he was young:

  • Redford: “I could have been better. I could have broke every record in the book.”
  • Close: “And then?”
  • Redford: “And then when I walked down the street, people would’ve looked and they would’ve said there goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was in this game.”

It would be nice to be thought of as the best there ever was in “the game.” Or even one of the best. But that’s not what I think of every time I hear this quote. I think about regret. And how I don’t want to have any, whether it’s my personal or professional life.

Maybe this sounds kind of dramatic. I even had that thought while writing it. But the point is this: Don’t walk away from a conversation about PR thinking to yourself, “I could have been better.” Take your hacks. Be proud of your industry. And start talking about the true benefits of PR — driving business results.

Being a head-nodder and a status quo advocate is easy. Anyone can do it. Being an advocate for how PR is changing is difficult. But it’s our responsibility — yours and mine. Please don’t take it lightly.


Justin Goldsborough

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