PR in the Age of Transparency


Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 11.33.18 AM

The Public Relations industry has often been viewed as a manipulative, ethically murky one, filled with puppet masters that resemble Roger Ailes. The PR industry written about in the excellent book Toxic Sludge is Good For You still exists, certainly (just look at how much Monsanto continues to accomplish) but the industry itself has shifted into a much more transparent one. Social media hasn’t given it much of a choice to do otherwise.

Look at it this way. How often have you looked at your Twitter feed, or on your friends’ walls on Facebook, and seen some kind of scandal? Whether it is a food chain that has been found guilty of having nasty ingredients in its food (it took me a while to eat a $5 Footlong after Subway’s food had the same ingredient as yoga mats in it) or a married CEO dating an employee, you usually hear about it through friends before you read the actual news article. Once news is out, it’s out, and with the wide spread use of smart phones, social media and technology in general, people find out about things immediately. Because of this, the general public often knows things before anyone in the PR industry has time to do “damage control” or to “spin the story,” therefore making it more transparent than ever before.

The prevalent use of social media and the need to know news the second after it’s released has changed the industry of PR. Back in the day, PR professionals had at least some time between when they found out about a crisis and when it was released to the public, and they could figure out how they wanted to handle it. Those days are long gone. Reporters are constantly racing to have the story out before anyone else, and once that is done, the world of social media blows up, leaving PR professionals little to no time to react.

While many people commonly assume that a large part of PR is “spinning the truth,” in today’s social media era, it is an industry being taken over by transparency. Few things can be hidden in our world today. Quite frankly, it is impossible for PR professionals to hide anything, and if they do, people would undoubtedly figure it out right away, which would only be harmful to their respective client or brand. Social media is now playing a pivotal role in keeping PR straightforward and transparent, as it should be.

By Jacquelyn Matter