The un-rated (i.e. edited) version:
Ari Gold: he gets thousand dollar hair cuts while some poor kid holds his phone to his ear, he pays two grand to take his clients to Lakers’ games, he yells at whoever he wants, whenever he wants (usually getting whatever he wants), and he goes through more personal assistants than bottles of Ax body spray. More importantly, Ari, the beloved publicist of Vincent Chase in the HBO series Entourage, lies, cheats, blackmails, spins stories, and, inventively, paints the inaccurate picture that many outside of the field have of the Public Relations business.
Although students and professionals in the Public Relations field know that fictional characters such as Ari Gold represent the extreme side of a typical stereotype of the business, it is not uncommon for friends, relatives, and the general public to believe otherwise.
“Public Relations is not just what you see on television. It’s not all about promoting celebrities, and even for those who do, it’s a very small segment,” Professor Michelle Honald said, “Also, it’s not about being an ‘evil genius’; spinning is not a part of PR.”
Rather than “spinning” problems, which is a mechanism used to react to a problem, Honald believes that Public Relations is about being proactive, or “stopping problems before they start”. Also, contrary to popular belief, honesty is the number one rule in PR.
“One of the most important ideas in PR is transparency: being clear and not trying to hide things,” Honald said, “This field is not about hiding the bad, it’s about acknowledging problems.”
Danny Brown, owner of Press Release PR* and founder of the 12for12K Challenge**, agrees that a common misconception about those in this field is that “every PR person is akin to a snake-oil salesman and will say anything to get the dollar”.
“It's true there are some shillers in the industry, but you get that anywhere,” Brown said, “thankfully there are great people making a difference and ‘cleaning up’ the industry and its perception.”
Another common myth is that PR is all about the “glitz and the glamour”.
“[In actuality] there's a lot of ‘boring’ work behind the scenes such as research for press releases, contact info, and legal clearance before a story or pitch can become live,” Brown said.
Faded ideas such as those that surround the 1800’s “press agentry” also leave “outsiders” in the dark when it comes to what kind of work a PR professional actually does.
“Most people think that PR is all about publicity when really, there is so much more that goes into it,” Honald said, “PR involves everything from community and internal relations, to event planning and communicating messages.”
In Public Relations, misconception is the name of the game; those not in PR often confuse the field with others, such as marketing and advertising. Brown agrees that these fields are very similar, but there are some key differences.
“With advertising, for example, if you pay for an ad to be shown, you're guaranteed that it'll be seen by your target audience; with PR, you're hoping that it'll be seen, but a lot has to do with relevance of story, timing, and media [among other things],” Brown said.
When it comes to marketing, the difference is found in the publics. Marketing is a “sales and distribution function whose principal publics are the customers, retailers, and distributors” while public relations practice “involves many publics besides the customers” such as the media, employees, community leaders, government regulators, activist groups, and more (Public Relations: The Profession and the Practice, 2004).
Finally, a fallacy that Brown comes across regularly is that PR will get a business all the sales it needs: that PR is a “magic brush that will get your name in all the major newspapers and TV shows”.
“PR represents an opportunity to tell your story, but that story needs to be worth telling in the first place, and people need to be receptive to it. Get that combination and then you've got the chance to get some major eyeballs looking at you,” Brown said, “but a lot of it is luck, combined with hard work and knowledge.”
Oh yeah, and a little bit of honesty, too.
*Press Release PR is a boutique agency offering social media PR and marketing consultancy to both small-to-medium businesses and Fortune 500 clients. For more information visit http://pressreleasepr.com/
**The 12 for 12,000 Challenge is the combination of social media and fund-raising that aims to change the lives of millions worldwide. For more info visit http://12for12k.org.