The oh-so-smart U.K.-based Economist revealed how ignorant it is about U.S. PR in a 2,700-word article Dec. 16 under the headline, “Rise of the image men; PR man has conquered the world. He still isn’t satisfied.”

The article falls on its face by repeatedly referring to “PR men” and “PR man” although the majority of PR pros today are women and the percentage is increasing.

About half the article appears to be a re-write of material in "PR! A Social History of Spin," a 1996 book by Stuart Ewen, Hunter College professor of film and media studies.

Ewen wrote extensively about Ivy Lee’s role in helping to create the PR industry in the early 1900s. He noted that while Lee promised “accurate information” about clients answering all press questions “most cheerfully,” he did not always live up to such promises, earning the nickname, “Poison Ivy.”

Lee spread “egregious lies” about strikers against a Rockefeller mining company in 1914, says the Economist. Some striking miners and their families were killed in one confrontation. A Lee press release accused Mother Jones, “an elderly union organizer, of being a prostitute and brothel-keeper.”

Economist Sees Confusion in PR

The magazine says, “PR Man remains uncertain of his proper role. Is he a master manipulator? Is he the devil’s advocate (as long as Satan pays his fees)? Or is he a benign bridge-builder between the corporate world and the public?”

Current “spiel” of PR, says the magazine, is that the “mainstream media—the traditional gatekeepers of news and the bane of the PR man’s life—are becoming less important” with the rise of “social media.”

“It is not difficult to stick pins to the PR men’s inflated hopes of being the lords of online chaos,” it writes.

It concludes that SM fans as well as “most powerful and influential people,” still get “their basic information from old-fashioned news providers.”

Economist Choked on Tylenol

The magazine on April 10 said Johnson & Johnson’s handling of the Tylenol murders in 1982 and 1986 is the “gold standard of crisis management” although the company re-introduced easily-spiked capsules after seven people had been murdered with them. It pretended total lack of responsibility for this, offering a measly $100K reward for information about the murders.

J&J has refused to talk about the subject for at least a decade.

This website sent criticism of J&J’s actions by PR professors and ex-employee Scott Bartz to Economist editors but they refused to budge on their praise of J&J’s PR.

PRSA Knocks “Pessimistic Assessment”

Gary McCormick, PR Society president, in a posting on the Society’s website, said the magazine’s “pessimistic assessment couldn’t be further from the truth.”

McCormick talked about the “strong ethical standards” of the Society although it removed any enforcement of its Code in 2000.

The German Council of PR issues “public rebukes” of PR professionals who don’t live up to the Council’s ethics code.

The Middle East PR Assn. this week fined Dubai-based d-PR 15,000 dirhams (about $4,000) for improperly editing a photograph in the group’s annual awards banquet.

Claims PR is 'Growing Rapidly'

McCormick said PR is “growing rapidly and in some ways, faster than its brethren, advertising and marketing.”

The Society’s current membership of 21,000 represents a growth of 1,400 members or 7% since 1998, when membership totaled 19,600.

Growth in the period from 1990 to 1998 (eight years vs. 12 years) was 30%--from 14,983 members to 19,600.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor said “PR specialists” totaled 240,610 in 2008. “Reporter/correspondents” totaled 50,690.

McCormick also said PR “isn’t chasing the social media dreams of advertising and marketing; it already owns that vital realm.”