Ronn TorossianRonn Torossian

A recent Gallup poll that asked respondents to rate their satisfaction and trust with various industries revealed that the public relations industry produces one of the lower-ranking scores achieved.

This may be surprising to readers. After all, isn’t PR all about public image? How can an industry so well-versed in maintaining image and reputation cultivate such a low reputation score?

The poll ranked responses based on overall positive, neutral or negative stances to create an overall “net positive” score for each industry. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the pharmaceutical industry ranked the lowest of all based on the responses collected. However, the advertising and public relations field ranked 22nd out of 25 industries ranked. Not exactly a high score, and with a net positive rating of -1, there’s much ground to be made up in order to right the ship of public perception.

What does this poll mean for the industry? Generally speaking, it could be contrived that consumers are unhappy with the amount of “spin” that PR professionals are often known for. On the advertising side, perhaps consumers are displeased with the amount of advertorial content or the lack of genuine content/proliferation of misleading content that they’re seeing on a daily basis.

Another area to focus on when it comes to improving the industry’s reputation is all the good it does. Public perception places undue emphasis on spinning stories or damage control, rather than focusing on the positive outcome of many PR campaigns. After all, public relations isn’t just about damage and reputation control. It’s also about rallying the public behind social causes and initiatives that make a difference.

Today’s environment is ripe with fake news and misleading information. This can also be seen as an opportunity to improve the reputation of the public relations industry, which is often responsible for righting the ship on public perception or the spread of misinformation. By combating fake news, PR professionals can position themselves not just as “masters of spin” but also as advocates for a media culture free of damaging or misleading information.

The PR industry is built around reputation and perception. Perhaps those in the industry have been so focused on helping their clients that they’ve let their own internal PR fall by the wayside. Perhaps not enough attention is drawn to the social causes and benefits of public relations. Whatever the case may be, there must be more effort made to help increase the level of consumer trust surrounding the industry. Otherwise, the industry may face even more of an uphill climb in an already fractious environment.


Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR agency.