The writer of this PRSA blog post takes Matt Lauer to task for daring to ask Starbuck's CEO Howard Schultz whether the company's initiative to put the jobless back to work was merely a "PR campaign" -- the obvious implication being that there is something underhanded in trying to get credit for doing something worthwhile. The blog writer, Arthur Yann, thinks Lauer is being dismissive of public relations and perpetuating negative stereotypes about the profession.
Mr. Yann is not the only person in our profession to fret over how others perceive us. I suppose you could say it's an occupational hazard: we spend so much time worrying about the reputation of our clients and employers, it's only natural to give some thought to our own. So I mean no personal disrespect to him or any of my colleagues when I say: Get over yourself.
Look, if I didn't worry about how the world at large perceived me when I was a journalist, I'm not going to shed many tears over it as a PR practicioner. The best I can do is serve my organization ethically and to treat the public honestly. As I've said, the best public relations is good conduct. If we, as a profession, conduct ourselves with honor, we will be treated with such.
Then again, I can be a bit of an idealist about these things, which brings me back to the esteemed Matt Lauer. First, the guy has got to put up a tough front. The Today Show is soft enough as it is. If Lauer appears to be shilling for Starbuck's, the guy is going to get reamed.
Second -- and here is perhaps where I sympathize with Arthur Yann's point of view -- what's wrong with doing something for public relations, as long as what you are doing is beneficial? Regular readers of this blog know what I believe my professional purpose is: to reconcile the interests of my employer with that of its various publics. By that definition, what Starbuck's is doing is a PR campaign, and from what I can see, a damn fine one at that.