I had learned of the Hunter-Coach incident a few months ago when the always careful and brilliant Jack O’Dywer revealed it on his website, and was shocked by the manipulative way in which
our colleagues from Paul Werth and Associates, on behalf of Coach Inc, dealt with the pr program they implemented with Hunter students in Nyc.
By the way, Hunter is the institution in which Stuart Ewen teaches and I personally consider his book PR, the Social History of Spin, as possibly the best book ever written on our profession.
A must read for any colleague who has not had the opportunity to do so.
Having said this, I am still very much convinced that professionals –being well aware of course of how to deal with academic counterparts (but this would stand true with any other constituency they deal with on behalf of their clients/employers…– should do everything they can to reach out to students of public relations and other disciplines, in order for them to better understand what real life pr is about (and in this specific case, although despicably so, they certainly did.. in the sense that students were used as guinea pigs…and this is intolerable even when academics use them for their own research activities without making them well aware of what they are doing..).
In fact I am going to use this case in my next class to demonstrate how public relations is pervasive and how it can be harmful when it is not fully explicit (who I am, who I represent, what objectives do I wish to achieve, how I plan to achieve them in conversing with you… do you agree?).
I am of course also convinced that academics in turn, to avoid being excessively abstract in their courses, should reach out to professionals and give them appropriate access to students.
Many of us who are…sort-of in between… have been advocating in every country closer links between professional and academics so to reinterpret and readjust the growing body of knowledge of our profession.
It is a shame and a pity that incidents like these, carefully reported by Jack in this pdf of his monthly publication which has just been published (see front page and pages 6, 12 and 13), cast a shadow on this positive contamination.
I just hope that the incident does not contribute to, as-they-say, throwing the baby away with the dirty water.