Gallup recently released a poll ranking how Americans rated 25 business and industry sectors. The federal government, oil and gas, and the real estate industries scored least – at -29, -44, and 46 percentage points, respectively. One would have to be living under a rock to not understand the sentiments that formed such rankings.
A bit problematic though was the rating ( – 5 percent points) Americans in the “random sample” of more than 1,000 adults aged “18 and older” gave the public relations industry. PR was oddly lumped in with none other than the advertising category. This is quite problematic because public relations and advertising are two distinct disciplines and should not be lumped in the same category.
We venture to say that those numbers reflected poorly because consumers are increasingly savvy, discerning and can see the pay-for-play activity behind the creative, crafty, blitz of multimedia advertisements we all tend to have a love-hate relationship with. PR is generally associated with “earned media” and reporters do not get paid for reporting stories introduced to them by PR practitioners. Of course, when respondents saw PR lumped in with “advertising” they immediately gave both a negative rating. It also doesn’t help that popular TV shows have given consumers the misimpression that public relations is all spin and fluff.
Nonetheless, there’s growing public relations value for businesses and consumers alike, backed by studies showing the public relations industry and the need for its services grew overall in the thick of the global recession in 2008 and 2009. There is additional awareness that when PR is handled properly, consumers appreciate and recognize it even if they wouldn’t think to call it “PR” – goodwill is essentially earned and granted in the process. However, when it’s improperly implemented it’s so glaring many consumers can see through the ‘spin’.
It appears Gallup would do well to make a distinction between PR and advertising in future polls – the numbers would definitely be more accurate.