Thank you for smoking: The PR villain

May 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

If there is any film that manages to make me simultaneously hate the PR industry and love the machinations of image and advertising it is the 2005 political satire Thank You For Smoking.

Depicting the efforts of tobacco spokesperson Nick Naylor to create a positive image of Big Tobacco, it is wonderfully cynical about both the anti- smoking groups and the tobacco industry itself. The wit of Naylor is what got me interested in Public Relations in the first place (see Naylor in amazing form here) but the message contained within the film (namely the harm that effective PR can do when it campaigns on behalf of a dangerous industry) worries me as to the image PR men are giving themselves and the profession at large.

The rise of the term “spin doctors” in the media to describe political public relations officers should indicate some of the disdain with which he media and some of the public have for PR men. Although as a profession they should be abiding by the principles laid out by the CIPR  and by an ethical framework that keeps honesty with the public at the heart of their operations, I wonder if the kind of public relations that Habermas had in mind- one of dual understanding between organisation/ government and the public is really present in this day and age.

The use of online social media (as already mentioned repeatedly in other posts) is bridging that gap and there is a sense that the truth is easier to gauge by comparing sources on the internet- also I suspect that organisations have little choice in the matter when using Twitter and Facebook as promotional tools- but the basic concept of public relations still seems elusive to me. Is there anyone who can suggest otherwise?

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