PR Bill of Rights

Public Relations

Independence Day is a great time to remember the values on which America was founded, as evidenced by the eloquent opening to the Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That’s a powerful statement, and one that we often take for granted. The Fourth of July is also a time for us to think about how lucky we are to have the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Freedom of speech. Freedom of the press. Freedom of religion. Those are the inalienable rights that the Founders fought a revolution over.

Not to trivialize the seriousness of those noble notions, but as we pause to honor the holiday, I think it’s high time we PR pros had our own PR Bill of Rights. I know what you’re thinking. This guy needs a vacation. That might be true, but hear me out.

My PR Bill of Rights would include but not be limited to some of these important concepts.

  1. The right to get a straight answer. Don’t we all deserve this? Isn’t this the least we can expect when we ask a client a question like do you have a budget for this? Isn’t this the least a reporter should expect if they ask us or our clients a question? How many times have we cringed while watching some unprepared spokesperson at a news conference dodge a simple question?
  2. The right to never, ever hear a client say, “how can we spin this?” As PR thought leader Gini Dietrich reminds us over and over again, spin sucks. When I was a working musician, I proudly displayed a bumper sticker on my guitar case that said, “disco sucks”, because disco put live musicians out of work. Spin, or the all-too-common stereotype that PR people are “spin doctors,” demeans our profession and makes us look stupid and untrustworthy. It puts us out of work. Gini is right. Spin sucks.
  3. The right to at least a bare minimum of common courtesy. How many times have you sent a proposal to a prospective client after spending weeks working on it and not even gotten the simple courtesy of an email reply confirming that they got the proposal? How many times have you followed up to see if they got the proposal only to once again get no response? How many times has this gone on for weeks only to later find that they had a change of plans and forgot to let you know?
  4. The right to just a modicum of respect from professional journalists. Look, I know you are busy, you make that abundantly clear anytime we try and interest you in a story. Guess what? We’re busy too. Just a bit of common courtesy would be nice. “Thanks for your email, I’ll get back to you if we are interested.” Or “thanks for your email but that’s not something I plan to cover” or “hey, I’m not the right person but you could try…”
  5. The right to not be continually assaulted by a never-ending barrage of pitches from lead generation companies. Seriously, if I want to pay someone to send annoying pitches to prospects that make them never want to talk to me even if it would help the space program, you will be the first one I call. Until then, please don’t bother me.

OK, you’re right. Maybe I do need a vacation. But that’s beside the point. My point is that PR pros deserve certain inalienable rights that we hold to be self- evident. Let’s pause to think about that as we honor America with baseball, fireworks and hot dog eating contests. Are you with me?


Author: Jon Pushkin