How PR pros can fight the perception that they’re ‘smart, friendly liars’

A recent study found that the public sees some positive aspects of PR professionals, but some clear negatives, too. Here’s how to avoid being tagged as duplicitous.

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Spin doctor, heal thyself. That’s one way of summing up the prescription that two researchers offer for mending the PR profession’s somewhat banged-up image.

Coy Callison, associate dean for graduate studies in the College of Media & Communications at Texas Tech University, and Trent Seltzer, chairman of the college’s public relations department, along with former doctoral student Patrick Merle, recently released a study examining the public’s opinion of PR professionals. Public Relations Review is set to publish the study.

The researchers found that, while not a blanket condemnation, a fair number of Americans brand PR pros as “smart, friendly liars.” They based their findings on the results of two surveys: one conducted in 2003 by Callison, and the other in 2012 by Merle, now an assistant professor at Florida State University. In the surveys, positive traits attributed to PR professionals included “smart,” “informed” and “charming.” On the other end of the spectrum, “liar,” “spin doctor” and “dishonest” were among the negative traits applied to PR pros.

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