Earlier this month Weber Shandwick associate director Dean Gallagher was roundly humiliated in the Daily Mail for a Week in my Life piece written for Prolific North. It’s time for this national-led media shaming to stop.
Public relations has a reputation problem at the best of times.
Amusing as they are, Ab Fab, Absolute Power, The Thick of It, Twenty Twelve and many more of their ilk, have permeated the public’s consciousness, leaving a perception of public relations that is far from correct.
The late publicist Max Clifford exacerbated the issue, pitching fake news and manipulating the media for his clients’ benefit.
It’s something we’re working hard to address at the CIPR by reasserting the role of public relations as a strategic management discipline and tackling it head on with national media.
A collective responsibility
But it’s not just for us to do.
Every practitioner has a duty to consider the reputation of our industry when educating people about what we do and publicising our line of work.
While I personally didn’t enjoy the tone and nature of Dean’s approach to the A Week in my Life, arguably he was still doing more than most to show the diversity of the role and demanding nature of the work we do.
It also didn’t merit the national shaming.
There’s an argument that celebrities deserve whatever treatment they get in the national media because they proactively seek the limelight. I’ve never bought into that.
It certainly doesn’t hold true when an obviously talented member of the public relations industry is monstered in a daily tabloid for effectively getting on and doing his job, even if it wasn’t as representative as it could have been.
It’s time for a change
We have to be the change we want to see.
I’ll be honest - I shared Dean’s post on Facebook for people’s views until I spotted the Daily Mail’s piece, when I immediately took it down.
Aside from being lazy journalism, this was click bait material designed to bring the keyboard warriors out, without any thought about the consequences.
I speak from experience.
In Autumn last year I hit the front page of national and international media for daring to express a view about the relevance and use of fairy tales in today’s society.
Despite being asked for an interview by pretty much every UK media outlet, and many across the world, I didn’t defend or explain my view, which holds firm today.
Why? Because I felt ashamed, vulnerable and with the door stepping, rape and death threats, afraid for my children.
Our forefathers fought for free speech
We supposedly live in a democracy where we can all express our views.
But it becomes a real threat to free speech when people are frightened to share their experiences or voice an opinion for fear of being shouted down and abused.
It’s a serious issue.
How many times have you wanted to stand up for someone on social media, then decided not to comment because of the potential fallout.
That alone tells you everything you need to know. Next time, please do what people did for me – hold the line and show solidarity.
And why not write to the media and tell them what they’re doing isn’t good enough. We are in a position of influence so let’s use it.