Mom’s (and Seitel’s) PR message


Seitel at PRSSA conference

Yesterday’s panel-filled schedule at the PRSSA Regional Conference yielded more PR advice in a single day than most students obtain in a semester. There were more than two dozen public relations professionals filling classrooms with guidance, tips, lessons and observations, and every student there filled notebooks and Twitter and i-Pads with pearls of wisdom grabbed at the event. For me, a repeated message–uttered by many a speaker–stood out and was crystallized by the keynote, PR guru Fraser Seitel. It was the same message your mother always told you: “Don’t lie.”

Public relations as a profession still suffers somewhat by the perception that we “spin” facts to garner a positive response from our targeted audiences, and that our messages should be viewed through a cynical screen. But too many corporate images and public careers have suffered at the hands of a lie. Energy company BP is recent proof. Tiger Woods is a great example of a superstar whose lies virtually ruined his career. Bill Clinton came within a vote of losing his presidency over a lie.“Don’t succumb to spinning,” Seitel told the group of 80 public relations majors attending the Hofstra-hosted event. “Lying is not acceptable. Everything must be built around telling the truth. There’s a great difference between doing well and doing right.”

Later in the day, during what was the most well-attended panel discussion, PR pros Bob Zimmerman and Bert Cunningham were asked why so many organizations and leaders–knowing the examples of its consequences–lie to cover up problems, thus leading to PR debacles. “People are human,” Cunningham wryly noted, “and they think they can lie their way out of a bad situation.” Zimmerman agreed that there’s often an “I can handle this” mentality that comes along with being a leader.  And this is where a PR pro should be steering their bosses to the truth. “If you’re doing your job right, sometimes you’re the only one in the room shaking your head no,” Seitel told the PR students.

Mom was right. Lying is bad. And the best PR professionals know this, live this, and act accordingly. Your thoughts?

P.S. At the left of this blog I’ve added links for PR jobs and internships I’ve heard about. Take a look and bookmark this resource. It’ll be updated regularly!


6 responses

  1. Listening to Fraser Seitel was truly motivating, he had such a great energy and you could tell he really loved his job. I love his text book because you can hear his down to earth yet passionate and experienced voice coming through. Everything he said was direct and to the point, which I’ve learned is the best way to communicate in PR. I agreed with everything he said about PR and the values that the business is based on and listening to him speak only made me more excited to get out into the PR world.

  2. Brie Schachtel | Reply

    The PRSSA event was a great experience and I am really glad I attended it.
    Every single session the phrase “don’t lie” was repeated; drilled into our brains. A lie can ruin credibility and a career in seconds that took years to make and is not worth it at all.
    Cunningham is right. “We are human”. Humans make mistakes and the many examples given at the PRSSA event should indicate to students looking into the PR field that ‘this is what happens when you lie’… past mistakes by others (lying) can ultimately teach us how to handle the situations the correct way now.

  3. E.C. Public Relations | Reply

    Fantastic day w/ students–just what this “seasoned” pro needed. It was uplifting to share insights with such impressive and bright students about PR careers. PR students from L.I., N.C., Rochester, PA, CT, and MA astutely asked about role differences between PR staff in corporate, agency, or nonprofit settings. I know each of you will be tremendously successful! Follow me @Ellenpr

  4. First of all, I really enjoyed the conference yesterday! I learned a lot about many different aspects of PR and I took some valuable notes that I will definitely remember and reference in the future. Thanks for organizing this event PRSSA!

    I’m so glad that your post today is about the importance of telling the truth as a PR professional. In his message yesterday Fraser Seitel addressed how much PR has changed since it was first established as a profession. He said that PR professionals could be successful if they “showered every day and drank martinis.” Obviously, PR has drastically changed since then. I think that not only have our roles changed within in the business world, but our reputations have changed as well. I really think that the idea that PR professionals are “spin doctors” is a thing of the past that will not continue in the future of PR! The upcoming generation of PR students who will be released into the PR world are being constantly told by our professors and PR “elders” that spinning should not even be a word in our vocabulary. If we listen to this advice, PR’s rep could be even more positive in the future!

  5. Abby Littleton | Reply

    The conference was great! I’m so glad I attended!

  6. Bert Cunningham | Reply

    I’m always energized when I speak before a group of PR students like those who attended the PRSSA Regional Confernece at Hofstra. They’re smart, involved, interested in a great many things, and certainly get how digital technology fits into the new PR equation. And I learn things too.

    There are a lot of very talented and serious PR students today who are developing communication skill sets that were not part of everyday PR practice as recently a five years ago. At the same time, they are learning about time- honored PR methods that have been significantly refined and improved over the last 40 years. And they take it all very seriously.

    The PR profession has advanced lightyears since I first started in marketing and PR in 1970. And from what I’ve witnessed in classrooms, and at conferences and PRSSA meetings at Hofstra I firmly believe the the PR profession will have an even brighter future in the hands of the next generation of practitioners and leaders who are on campus now.

    Congrats to all who organized and attened the PRSSA Regional Conference. It was time well spent for everyone who as involved.

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