Public relations judo and junk public relators in practice: let me count the ways…

Public relations judo is an increasing self defence process used by organizations to offset negative market effects induced by recurring daily public statements over statistical evidence of environmental or health effects of products/services/processes and decisions….

Clearly public relations professionals are active on, and benefit from, both sides of the fence.

On one side they perform a crucial role in the lobbying and public dissemination efforts of what many call junk science, and on the other side they support organizational efforts to dilute the market effects of that same junk science… again by defensive lobby or counter dissemination of information to publics.

Don’t know much about judo, but this practice seems to me to be gaining considerable ground to the point that it could appear appropriate to refer to a new professional specialist which we could define, for whichever side s/he works for, as the junk public relator.

And this, principally because real-time dynamics of information -also (but not only) induced by instant communication give either side no time to think, listen, evaluate, research- ensure that arguments and facts as well as counter-arguments and counter-facts, are founded, grounded and sustainable.
Thus, more often than not, public relations judo is increasingly being undertaken by junk public relators

Day in and day out, this scenario is developing in the marketplace, while the many pangloss who inhabit both professional associations and college or master class rooms, continue in their triple monkey attitude -no see, no hear, no speak- and show shock and horror when confronted with our increasingly numerous critics who say that:

°public relations weakens the democratic process
°public relations reinforces the strong powers of society
°public relations is spin and misleads public opinion
°public relations is structurally opaque
°public relations rather than a management tool is a master of ceremonies service
°public relations corrupts the media system
°public relations distorts the public policy process
°public relations is the cause of today’s celebrity addiction of an increasing number of individuals and organizations
°public relations distracts consumers from the real substance of ideas, products and services
°public relations corrupts scientific research and the distribution of knowledge
°public relations pollutes information related to health and wellbeing
°public relations has become too powerful and needs to be regulated as a profession
°public relations people should be compelled to undertake professional training
°public relations people should be compelled to join a reputable professional body in order to practice
°public relations people should be sued if they mislead
°public relations consultants should publicly declare all interests, clients and budgets
°black public relations practices increasingly slander and destroy competition
°public relations is used to spark litigation and conflicts which delay implementation of organizational decisions
°public relations pollutes and corrupts social interaction

(mind you, these are only the first that come to mind, but I would be most grateful if you added on others….).

Of course this is a glass half empty perspective, but how distant is it from what we directly or indirectly experience every day?

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2 Replies to “Public relations judo and junk public relators in practice: let me count the ways…

  1. Toni,

    I get the feeling that there are actually several issues under discussion here. With regard to the science points you mention, it’s not always a question of good or bad public relations as much as looking at the same issues through different prisms. Most issues are a lot less black-and-white than many people think, and a lot of the thrust-and-parry that you describe is related to how you focus on science. With regard to the environment, for example, I think very few people would support the statement “we should destroy the environment”. But real-life decisions require weighing all the trade-offs and making the net best decision. Single-issue groups have the luxury of not having to do this calculus. They focus on one point and one point alone. So environmentalists may not care about the impact of a decision on employment, whereas trade unions would probably put jobs above environmental protection. Even within the environmental movement (which is a very broad church), water quality specialists may not pay much attention to other aspects, such as air quality.

    It also depends on how you draw your boundaries. Are we looking at local impacts? Rrgional? National? Global? The “right” answer may vary, depending on the scope of your examination.

    Because of this, public relations can never look only at the facts. It also has to take into account societal preferences, value judgments and many other human variables (yes, even politics). And wherever there are strong differences of opinion, there is likely to be criticism about methods, even when they are perfectly acceptable according to professional standards.

  2. You’ve really made a point. PR professionals very often have to be for or against a certain position without having the right time to weigh arguments, facts and reasons. Added to the speed by which new information and reactions (positive and negative) are thrown into the air by new media tools leads us to have to juggle several critical matters at the same time.

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