Bob Bly Direct Response Copywriter Official Banner

Bad PR for the PR Profession

September 18th, 2005 by Bob Bly

In her new book ?Bait and Switch,? Barbara Ehrenreich writes: ?PR is really journalism?s evil twin.?

?Whereas a journalist seeks the truth, a PR person may be called upon to disguise it or even to advance an untruth,? says Ehrenreich. ?If your employer, a pharmaceutical company, claims its new drug cures both cancer and erectile dysfunction, your job is to promote it, not to investigate the ground for these claims.?

PR practitioners: Is Barbara way out of line? Or right on target?


This entry was posted on Sunday, September 18th, 2005 at 1:10 pm and is filed under PR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

79 responses about “Bad PR for the PR Profession”

  1. Richard Leader said:

    Not sure I’d agree that journalists seek the truth… Many journalists seek circulation figures – and that often means a version of the truth sometimes as well disguised as that version of the truth that comes from PR.

  2. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:

    Nobody owns a copyright on truth or lies.

    There’s an old joke about the Russian Communist “news”papers Pravda (“Truth”) and Izvestia (“News”): “V Pravdye nye izvestia, v Izvestia nye pravda–There’s no news in The Truth and no truth in The News!”

    Our own newspapers enjoy their own “freedom of the press.” Do the New York Times and the Washington Post seek the truth? Honestly?

    In “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” the reporter tears up his notes and tells Senator Ranse Stoddard (Jimmy Stewart) why he can’t print the real story: “It ain’t news. This is the West! When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

    All marketing is mental jiu-jitsu. You use what’s already in the prospect’s mind to position your product or service. Is that evil? Is that news?

  3. Peter said:

    Nobody owns a copyright on truth or lies.

    I don’t think that’s a point of contention. The thing is, we’d all be better off if these people were more honest and substantially aware of the impact of their work. To them it’s just spilling shlock for press releases, but these drugs have serious impacts on families and their loved ones. Similarly, as noted, journalism has very little to do with telling the truth. On the same note, their constant stream of bullshit does nothing but lower the level of the national discourse to a retarded level of exchanging meaningless “talking points”. So you can talk about how it’s relatively hands-off and it doesn’t really matter and you can sleep fine at night because big media or big pharma pays your bills – for now. Things are going to catch up and bite society in the ass in a big way, sooner rather than later.

  4. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller --Wordrider said:
    Truth, Lies and PR
    Bob Bly tossed this Molotov cocktail into his blog and asked PR practitioners to comment:

  5. Bonnie said:

    I think she is out of line because she’s perpetuating the myth that all PR people are unethical spinmeisters who care only about their company’s image and bottom line. She’s also perpetuating the myth that all journalists seek the truth. In my opinion, both are false. And both are true. Neither applies to ALL PR people or ALL journalists. And hopefully, neither applies to most.

    The PR profession is striving to improve its image and is getting better, while journalism seems to be getting worse. (Especially TV journalism!)

    Canadian Public Relations Society Code of Professional Standards: “A member shall practice the highest standards of honesty, accuracy, integrity and truth, and shall not knowingly disseminate false or misleading information.”

    PublicRelations Society of America Code of Ethics: “We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.”

    Of course, not everyone complies. But there are bad apples in every field. Why label an entire profession — whether PR, Journalists, writers, or whatever — based on the actions of a few idiots?

  6. Darren said:

    While I agree with the 2nd part of Ms. Ehrenreich’s comment, I don’t think it’s accurate to compare PR and Journalism. They’re apples and oranges. The objective of Journalism (ideally) is to inform and educate while the objective of PR is to position a company and/or brand and, ultimately, sell something. (And, yes, previous comments about the true nature of Journalism should be duly noted — I’m speaking idealistically here.) I understand that in the real world, Journalism is also about selling, but it’s about selling the sensationalism of a story in order to jolt circulation, not selling a product. Bottom line: due to the conflicting goals of each, it seems inaccurate to compare them.

  7. Steve Slaunwhite said:

    Both PR pros and journalists are competing for the same market: readers. And the competition is fierce. Although both claim to be dedicated to the truth (the Public Relations Society of America actually requires members to sign an oath to that effect), the pressure is on to gain reader attention. As a result, “truth” is sometimes lost in a whirlwind of sensationalism, spin, and/or exaggeration.

  8. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:

    Peter (comment 3) scolds me (with some justification) for sidestepping the issue by pointing out that “There’s no truth in the news.”

    I don’t mean to justify deception in any field. But the quote about PR was a sanctimonious sideswipe that was ill-advised at best.

    “It seems to me,” said Sancho [to Don Quixote], “that your worship is like the common saying, ‘Said the frying-pan to the kettle, Get away, blackbreech.’ You chide me for uttering proverbs, and you string them in couples yourself.”

    On a technical note, my “Trackback” comment (#4 above) was supposed to link to my own blog post about Bob’s question. For some reason, the “[Read More]” link got cut off. The rest of my comment is here:

  9. Asdf said:


  10. Anonymouse said:

    Barbara Ehrenreich–I heard her interviewed for the first time ever recently. Never heard of her before. This is one lady with a huge political agenda, which becomes obvious when asked what she thinks is the solution to the problem–which basically would involve massive government spending.

  11. Buzzoodle Ron said:

    How much of the PR is true and interesting (newsworthy) will ultimately be what differentiates the successful PR effort from the wasted PR effort. We specialize in word of mouth, and while you can create some buzz, you cannot sustain it or watch it take off without having people agree with the effort and spread it on their own.

  12. Dave Gardner said:

    aargh! The comment “a journalist seeks the truth, a PR person may be called upon to disguise it or even to advance an untruth” rankles me. I have a degree in science with certification in writing. I’ve been a newspaper staff writer/photographer. I’ve been a freelance writer. I’ve also been a technical editor/writer for the past 24 years. I’ve worked for giant software companies, small hardware companies, NASA-Space Station Project, Dept. of Energy, Dept. of Defense, and also as a contractor (freelance) tech writer/translator. I’ve seen how so-called *journalists* can *slant* their articles by skillful manipulation of their words–how the different connotations can be used with words having similar denotations. If a *journalist* has a certain belief or political orientation, that *journalist* will convey this attitude in articles that will highlight the biased background. I’ve been a member of organizations (both corporate and other) that have been attacked by media people already having a preconceived idea of what they *think* they are reporting on… So… *ANYTHING* written should be scrutinized with a critical eye at the background of the writer (including *my* stuff ). Yes, PR folks, Marcom folks, and Copywriters are paid to entice someone to buy what is being written about. But *journalists* sometimes are being paid to increase circulation of the media to the point of sensationalizing and muck-raking and using their word skills to sway a public’s opinion to *their* belief system rather than presenting the truth in an objective fashion to allow the public to come to their own conclusions. Sorry about the rambling… didn’t have the time to come up with a concise and better thought out response. PS: Mr. Bly, many of your books have made a major difference in my writing career. I always enjoy going back through them for refreshing ideas in technical writing, copywriting, freelance writing, and selling my services! Regards, Dave Gardner

  13. Susan Getgood said:

    The journalist’s job is to provide an “objective” third party view of the news to the reader under the basic assumption that there is too much to follow for the reader to do it on his own, he needs the paper the distill it down for him. The growth of blogs notwithstanding, we will continue to need journalists and mainstream media to perform this function, which we supplement with blogs etc. By and large the media does a decent job — yes there are crappy reporters and journalists who make mistakes and talk show hosts with political agendas and so forth. But the alternatives are no better and possibly worse. The devil we know….
    The PR person’s job is to promote her client’s products and services using the media as the intermediary. Are there unethical PR people? Probably, most certainly. But they are the minority not the majority. The majority of PR people are responsible, ethical practitioners of the profession who provide information to those reporters mentioned above so they can so their job of evaluating and reporting it.
    Polarizing statements like the one Bob quoted to start this thread are deliberately made to garner attention and advance an agenda. They do not reflect the reality, which is that most PR people and journalists are responsible, ethical professionals.
    I believe the phrase is: one bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch 🙂

  14. Dave Gardner said:

    Couldn’t help but jump back in… here’s an example (from another blog) where the “journalist” didn’t do the research and thinking required to produce objective reporting.. but rather sensationalized the subject –and the blogger’s response:
    The comment from one of the blog readers has a point as well.

  15. Steve Cody said:

    I’m in the midst of reading Barbara Ehrenreich’s new book, “Bait and Switch: the (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream.” As she did in her incredible “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America” tome of 2001, when she went “undercover” to see what it was like to be a member of America’s working poor, Ehrenreich goes incognito in search of a new story.
    This one really hits close to home, as the former New York Times columnist reinvents herself as a 50-year-old unemployed public relations freelancer and event planner. She takes the reader along as she goes job hunting for a full-time corporate PR gig.
    Unlike “Nickle and Dimed,” however, the story is slow and unappealing. The author spends far too much time ridiculing the various self-help job search gurus and PR executives she encounters on her sojourn. What really got my attention, though, were Ehrenreich’s constant jabs at, and put downs of, the public relations field, which she refers to as “journalism’s evil twin.”
    Ehrenreich reminds me of so many other “holier-than-thou” journalists who look down their collective noses at PR and refuse to admit how much they depend upon us for ideas and access. This has obviously been an age-old problem for PR people and isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
    Still, I’d love to hear or read something from a journalist that speaks objectively about PR, and recognizes what we bring to today’s 24×7 world.
    Well, I can always dream. Oh, and by the way, Ms. Ehrenreich? We’d never hire anyone with such preconceived notions and such an obvious chip on her shoulder. Better hang onto that day job.

  16. Sapphic Erotica said:

    The movies and pics are great from Sapphic Erotica lovely.

  17. Anne Howard said:

    I have been working in PR for close to twenty years and if awhat I did was promote lies on behalf of my clients, I can guarantee that not one journalist would answer my queries any longer. That kind of approach to the business of promoting news is sickening. Pharmaceutical companies have to back up their claims with numerous clinical studies and are careful not to lie and most reporters want to see and read all what the competition has to say too. Come on, give us all a bit more credit. Well if I were a reporter and I received a press release from Barbara Ehrenreich, it would go directly to the trash can.
    Anne Laszlo-Howard at RushPRnews,, press release services and distribution to newsrooms.

  18. Joel Drucker said:

    Having just read this book, and having been a PR agency practitioner for a decade before transitioning into journalism and corporate writing, I’m disappointed (but not surprised) that someone as attentive to nuance as Barbara Ehrenreich would fail to see an irony. The tools of PR — persuasion, communication, publicity — are not ideological and inherently “evil.” Look no further than Ehrenreich’s tidy web site. Or, for that matter look at anything from the March on Washington to Gandhi — masters of public relations in action. But, alas, the rub is that in many cases it’s the practitioners who lack ideology — PR folks who’ll willingly ply their trade for any buck, any cause.

  19. Rob Palmer said:

    PR and journalism go hand in hand – they both depend upon each other. Sometimes the relationship is strained, but overall it works out for everyone.

  20. kettle said:

    Does Journolist integrity exist anymore these days or is it about selling newspapers

  21. kcnughmuef said:

    Hello! Good Site! Thanks you! yuzfhmubcqkc

  22. gxxsoccjfv said:

    Thanks for this site!

  23. wedding favors said:

    I am looking unique wedding favors
    I have find some results But I think this one is good.

  24. daniel said:

    What page is this quote from in the book?

    that would be very helpful. i am writing an essay on the positive and negative aspects of the relationship between journalists and PRO’s


  25. Charity Prater said:

    I think PR and journalists scratch each others backs a lot of the time. I know many small-town papers that rely on heavily on PR to get stories.

  26. Jake@softmod wii said:

    Usually bad news generally circulates within the company only, and only the big shorts gets to deal with it. Until they’re ready to let the public know what’s going on.

  27. one year anniversary ideas for boyfriend said:

    one year anniversary ideas for boyfriend…

    […]Bad PR for the PR Profession – blog – direct marketing blog[…]…

  28. PLR articles, PLR ebooks, Spin Ready Articles, MRR articles, MRR ebooks, PLR Spin Ready Articles,PLR article, PLR ebook, MRR Spin Ready Articles, PLR Spun Articles,MRR spun articles, Private label rights, Private label rights ebook, Private label rights a said:

    PLR articles, PLR ebooks, Spin Ready Articles, MRR articles, MRR ebooks, PLR Spin Ready Articles,PLR article, PLR ebook, MRR Spin Ready Articles, PLR Spun Articles,MRR spun articles, Private label rights, Private label rights ebook, Private label rig…

    […]Bad PR for the PR Profession – blog – direct marketing blog[…]…

  29. games to play for free for girls for babysitting said:

    The brand new Microsoft zune browser can be amazingly excellent, although not as well as the actual iPod’s. It works effectively, yet isn’t as quick as Internet explorer, and it has a new clunkier user interface. In the event you sometimes consider while using the browser that is not a worry, in case you’re planning to look at web alot from a PMP then this iPod’s greater screen and better browser might be critical.

  30. Kreuzer said:

    What you posted made a bunch of sense. However, what about this? suppose you were to create a awesome headline? I ain’t saying your content isn’t solid, but suppose you added a headline that grabbed people’s attention? You could glance at Yahoo’s front page and watch how they create post titles to grab viewers interested. You might add a video or a related picture or two to grab readers interested about what you’ve got to say. Just my opinion.

  31. Jef Raskin said:

    Really Awesome. such a helpful to get started for beginners. Easy to understand and learnt lots of things. Thanks for this post sharing.

  32. Tarun Kumar said:

    thanks for sharing this wonderful post regarding erectile dysfunction today i learn many things will apply in future

  33. silkjj said:

    ohhh it is really gud content.
    Do visit hope you will like it.

  34. Sam Miller said:

  35. Ahamad op said:

    Thank you for this amazing information. Great knowledge. I was finding this type of read,this time I found perfect post as I finding. Thank
    You can also check how to getAhmad op pubg sim

  36. Freefire said:

    Thank you for this amazing information. Great knowledge. I was finding this type of read,this time I found perfect post as I finding. Thank
    You can also check how to getget 9999 free fire diamond sim

  37. paper pots said:

    amazing blog bro thanks for this informative blog

  38. said:

    Very nice write-up. I certainly appreciate this website.

  39. Mediagraphixpr said:

    Are you seeking the best PR agency for book and authors Mediagraphixpr is the leading PR Agency for Book and author promotion and helps authors to promote their books through our extensive network

  40. Mediagraphixpr said:

    If you seeking the best PR agency for book and authors Mediagraphixpr is the leading PR Agency for Book and author promotion and helps authors to promote their books through our extensive network

  41. kripto haber said:

    KoinSaati, deneyimli ekibi, güncel haberleri ile sizinle. Hedefimiz güncel bir kripto-finans haber sitesi yaratmakla birlikte; deneyimli-deneyimsiz herkesin bilgi edinece?i aktif bir kripto toplulu?u olu?turmak. kripto haber

  42. jacob said:

  43. sammy said:

  44. Golden’s Keys said:

    nice post
    Key Duplication Services in Rowlett TX

  45. Corwin said:

    puppies for sale,pug puppies for sale in oregon,pug puppies for sale in az,pug puppies for sale in va,pug puppies near mepugs for sale,pug puppies for sale,years of work we could breed Pug puppies, with the most unique and exceptional colors you will dream of having. At the moment our cattery is one of the biggest in the USA who produced these valuable Pug puppies. All our Pug puppy for sale are transferred according to the law with documentation and all our Pug puppy and puppies are with registration AKC. As a family, we have loved, cared, breed, and lived with different kinds of puppies for over 10 years, quite an experience. We do not consider ourselves concerned with earning money. All our Pug puppies are raised at home in a family/friendly environment making our Pug puppies completely at ease with other pets.pugs for sale,pugs for sale near me,cheap pugs for sale,pug puppies for sale,pug puppies for sale near me.

  46. said:

    Thanks for sharing valueable content

  47. robert said:

  48. ???? 123betting said:

    Hi, great I am really enjoyed reading your blog.

  49. Ndure Shoes said:

    Shop best quality Mens slippers in Pakistan and chappal from Ndure Shop from a wide range of colours and styles, available exclusively at Ndure Ndure Chappals are made from best quality materials, with soft shoe sole Style a handsome look in best quality Men s chappal At Ndure, we have fashion for every one of You.
    From Ndure buy the best quality men trousers Pakistan online at affordable price. Fast Shipping.

  50. Sanjeev said:

    This blog is very nice and knowledgeable. Thanks for sharing your Knowledge. we Provide the Best online Magazine Subscription In India.
    If you are interesting in our service so you may visit: Magazine Subscription

  51. Deepak said:

    Thanks for sharing this Wonderful post. I am very pleased to read this article. This post is very awesome.

    Also visit my website –

    Thank you

  52. Cobalt Dreir said:

    cobalt octoate manufacturer are importers of cobalt octoate products devoted exclusively to advance materials in industrial bulk and laboratory/research quantities.

  53. theepoxyresin said:

    fiberglass resin is the most entrusted company operating in Pakistan to reach the desires of our customers. We manufacture premium quality Epoxy Resins for our customers to provide them with ease in engineering compound products. We keep the up-gradation process very frequent concerning improving the product you buy, leaving no room for error! Our company yields the best Epoxy Resins at the most astonishing prices in Pakistan.

  54. Ndure Shoes said:

    Get quality heel shoes for girls from Ndure this summer, and select from wide range of styles.

  55. Real Estate Agent In Long Island said:

    Real estate Agent In Long Island provides the greatest services for property selling and buying. Both can be time-consuming. We attempt to save you time while also offering the finest pricing in town. We assist you in discovering gorgeous places in popular areas.

  56. TheCareer-Coach said:

    Interview Preparation If you’ve already managed to polish off your CV to stand out – congratulations! If you haven’t, check out our Jobseeker Plan here to check out our all-inclusive plan for those looking for their first job or their next job!

  57. PSW said:

    Striping is integral on roads and parking spaces. Line striping gives a clear sense of direction to the drivers in following the traffic rules on the roads and highways. In the parking areas, the Thermoplastic Striping helps manage the space properly and directs the inflow and outflow of the traffic.

  58. Alexpeter said:

    Our career coaches have decades of experience and have taken thousands of interviews across different industries – so you’ll be in AMAZINGGG hands for your Interview Tips

  59. tobycarvery said:

    hotels in New York

  60. shaypari said:

    advance fitnessby Bilal Brothers, established in 1979, is the leader in exercise, fitness, gymnasium and indoor sport equipment all over Pakistan. We work only with the world’s top brands and are proud to serve our customers with top-notch after sales service.

  61. halfrobert said:

    custom eCommerce website development is accompanied by a range of other value-added services that add the oomph factor and makes it thrive.

  62. gil12 said:

    Best Shisha in Dublin offers you a wide range of shisha with flavourful drinks to go with it. Bring in your friends and family and enjoy the secluded atmosphere we offer you. We are offering amazing deals on drinks and shisha combos throughout the week.

  63. jenifar said:

    The world’s focus is shifting from home to work through the adaptation of virtual space and the metaverse stock. One such virtual world, XANA, is an example of a virtual world whose users have taken advantage of this opportunity for personal gain. From using digital real estate to create a virtual workspace to create an entertainment hub to securing land as an investment opportunity, XANA truly revolutionized the concept of virtual reality.

  64. Drive Mad said:

    In the fantastic 3D driving game Drive Mad, you must race your automobile while destroying as many trucks as you can. drive mad

  65. Emiley said:

    Hi, Nice Article. Well we are a marketing agency . We offer social media marketing services to help you build and engage with your audience on social media.

  66. Ca VPS host said:

    When it comes to affordable VPS hosting for Windows, we’ve got you covered. Our cheap VPS hosting windows solution provides a reliable and efficient environment for your Windows-based applications and websites. Enjoy the flexibility and control of a virtual private server without breaking the bank. Experience top-notch performance, lightning-fast speed, and seamless scalability—all at an unbeatable price.

  67. Gabe Freeman said:

    Interesting take on this article!

  68. Dropwarez said:

    Welcome to the world of Shopify dropshipping business in 2023 – an innovative and dynamic business model that has taken the e-commerce landscape by storm. In this era of digital entrepreneurship, starting a Shopify dropshipping business presents an exciting opportunity to tap into the global market without the burden of inventory management.

  69. faith said:

    Interesting article post. concrete company

  70. BabyBoxShop said:

    Celebrate the joyous occasion of a new baby with our collection of charming new baby gifts . Explore an array of delightful options that capture the essence of this special milestone. Whether you prefer personalised keepsakes, nursery decor, or soft blankets, our thoughtful gifts are designed to commemorate this precious moment in a meaningful way.

  71. BabyBoxShop said:

    New born gifts are heartwarming gestures to embrace the arrival of a tiny bundle of joy. Explore a collection of carefully curated gifts that bring comfort, joy, and practicality to the early days of parenthood.

  72. Mens Shalwar Kameez Collar Designs said:

    Thanks for sharing your wealthy information. This is one of the excellent posts which I have seen. I go through your all of your blog, but this blog is the best one. It is really what I wanted to see hope in future you will continue for sharing such an excellent post. We appreciate that please keep going to write more content.

    Faisalabad Fabric Store

  73. BSNS Consulting said:

    Rely on BSNS Consulting for reliable and efficient Accounting Services in Pakistan. Our team of skilled accountants ensures accurate financial record-keeping, bookkeeping, and financial reporting. With our attention to detail and financial insights, we help you make informed decisions that lead to improved financial performance and long-term success.

  74. TipTop Enrichtung said:

    A Barbershop Bedienplatz is the workspace within a barbershop where haircuts, shaving, and other services for male clients are carried out. This area typically includes a chair, mirror, and tools.The Barbershop Service Station is the heart of every barbershop, where skilled barbers work their magic to create fresh looks and maintain well-groomed appearances. This dedicated area is thoughtfully designed for both the barber’s convenience and the client’s comfort.

  75. Mosquito killer said:

    Explore WBM premium range of mosquito-killer products to ensure effective protection. Our collection includes mosquito killer lamps, powerful mosquito repellents, and dependable insect killer rackets, providing a comprehensive array of solutions.

  76. Pink Salt said:

    Himalayan pink salt contains minerals that can help with digestion and support a healthy gut environment.

  77. Moringa Powder said:

    Not all Moringa Powders are created equal. This section outlines key factors to consider when selecting the best Moringa Powder, including sourcing, organic certifications, and processing methods. Making an educated decision is essential to obtaining the most advantages.

  78. Global Eagle said:

    Bad PR for the PR Profession” is a thought-provoking critique of the public relations industry, written by an author with extensive experience in the field.

  79. muneem i digital said:

    Sending promotional messages, coupons, and updates via text messages can help reach customers on their mobile devices and drive engagement.

Leave a Reply