Unethical...We’re Not Like That!

11 years ago


Susan Wood (pictured left) and Michelle Hampton bemoan the fact that the Public Relations sector still faces some prejudice and misconceptions. But they also point to the positive brand-building benefits of PR.

Dodgy car salesmen, misleading real estate agents, deceitful mechanics, annoying telemarketers and…Public Relations practitioners. Yes PR people unfortunately tend to fall into that awful career category of perceived unethical shysters, although unlike the others, to top it off we’re also depicted as champagne swilling socialites. So why do we have such a negative, misconstrued reputation and what can we do about it?

As the Co-Directors of Australian PR agency Magnum PR, we continually come across potential clients, business affiliates and even media who extremely distrust (and in some instances actually loathe!) PR companies and consultants, which not surprisingly sometimes makes our job a little difficult.

Many even ask us outright if we are an ethical company! Can you imagine asking your local dentist or bus driver about his/her ethics? The first time we encountered this we were taken aback, however after subsequent repeated enquiries it’s now evident that there are actually still a vast number of dodgy PR practitioners out there in Australia who are letting down the rest of the industry.

Obviously these hacks are just taking money from clients and then producing little to no results. How anyone can expect to sustain their business like this (or would want to have that on their conscience) is anyone’s guess. This aside however, we understand why there is an abundance of PR skeptics out there.

After all, sometimes it can take a little while to generate media coverage for a client. Also with publicity never being guaranteed, as opposed to paid advertising and promotional activities, for many there is a very foggy and uncertain cloud over the idea of PR – which of course is then not helped by the bad reputation already surrounding the industry!

Do the job well

At Magnum PR however, we maintain that if you simply do the job you promised your client in the beginning, i.e. set about achieving as much relevant media coverage as possible for them, AND do it well, then the results really speak for themselves. It sounds like a simple formula but it amazes us how many companies aren’t running their business like this.

One example of an extremely successful PR campaign we implemented was for Red Bull Australia for its Red Bull Flugtag event – a large-scale man-made flying contraption competition which took place in Sydney on 6th April, 2008 at the Royal Botanic Gardens (http://www.redbullflugtag.com.au/).

Magnum PR’s brief was to create a strategic pre and post event PR program that would launch the event to the public Australia-wide, clearly communicating the meaning of Red Bull Flugtag whilst achieving maximum applications for teams wanting to compete in the first Australian event, attract significant spectator attendance at the event and clearly communicate a point of difference to set the event apart from other similar ‘bird man’ events in Australia.

Not only was the PR campaign hailed a global success by Red Bull International; and deemed a ‘best practice’ case study for all future host countries to adopt; the resulting publicity reached a cumulative audience of 21,112,558 (not including international media coverage achieved) and attributed to attracting over 60,000 people to the one-day event, exceeding the target by 200%.

Therefore as seen by this example, the proof really is in the pudding. For the extremely dubious skeptics however, who perhaps have been burnt badly in the past by PR phonies, or are reluctant to commit to an ongoing working relationship, we often tell them to appoint us on a trial. Following this in most cases not only have we generated great publicity results for the company but have also changed their perception of PR practitioners in general.

Needless bells and whistles

In Australia a lot of PR agencies tend to overcomplicate their campaigns with too many expensive bells and whistles, when sometimes the best approach for generating media coverage is a very straightforward, practical plan (even if it does involve highly creative or unconventional ideas). Some companies are also still living in the past, when PR was all about long lunches, parties and calling in favours from journalist friends to write stories about your clients, which is probably how the bad reputation of PR came about in the first place.

The truth is that PR is both an essential and highly beneficial tool for any brand, and a credible, rewarding career path for individuals genuinely looking to help brands and people achieve higher consumer awareness, website optimisation, deflect potential issues from arising in the media, or whatever the PR objectives may be.

At Magnum PR we prefer to take out all the fuss and nonsense and just get on with the job. By talking to our clients on their level and demonstrating that together we’re all working towards the same goal (to build their brand), as a result we’ve become extensions of our clients’ marketing teams, rather than the ambiguous PR company for hire which some Australian agencies are happy to remain as.

So if more PR practitioners start taking this approach and cut back on the long lunches, then hopefully together we can all shake off this bad image and raise the perception and value of PR both in Australia and worldwide.



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The Author

Susan Wood

Susan Wood and Michelle Hampton are Co-Directors, Magnum PR Pty Ltd

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Michelle Hampton

Susan Wood and Michelle Hampton are Co-Directors, Magnum PR Pty Ltd.

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