PR Gets Political-Or Not

A recent survey of 20,000 Americans by Gallup and the Knight Foundation showed that Americans’ trust of the news media is declining. This growing skepticism is bad news for PR professionals who rely on the third party “endorsement” media offers to communicate news and information about clients’ products and services The survey indicated that Americans are more pessimistic than ever about a perceived lack of objectivity in news coverage.

For those polled, the greatest challenge facing journalistic outlets is online misinformation, with 78% calling it a major problem that eclipses all others in the media environment and 73% wanting to see major internet companies find ways to exclude false and hateful information online.  This is more bad news for PR pros who are increasingly relying on Influencer and Social Media challenges to promote clients.

In this election year, the report goes on to state that “Americans have not only lost confidence in the ideal of an objective media, they believe news organizations actively support the partisan divide.”

If media is indeed partisan, the question for PR professionals is “can and should public relations executives leverage this political divide and incorporate political spin?”

Imagine a news release with this quote from a client: “I believe our product can help make American great again by…”. Or, “Our company thinks it’s time to address income inequality with…”.  While either spin might resonate with one presumably partisan media outlet or the other, neither will resonate with all readers and viewers equally and beneficially.

While a client may have very distinct political views, and wish to influence the votes of others, a public relations program that is meant to sell goods or services is not the forum to do so.  In the long run, staying neutral, being objective and conveying only fact-based information is the only way to combat the mistrust of media and gain positive publicity.

With 54% percent of people believing that reporters intentionally misrepresent facts, and 28% believing reporters make the facts up entirely, public relations professionals have the responsibility to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Clients can and should find other outlets to promote their political views. And everyone should make a plan to VOTE!