What is hiding behind the public relations curtain?

Peter Himler has an interesting post about a story in the on the consultancy’s public relations operation for .  He asks?

What possible benefit can Wal-Mart have derived from shining a spotlight on what it receives for its “$10 million” PR fee? This was one story request that should have been declined — unless you can give me an example, outside of a trade publication, where the machinations of a PR team were portrayed in a positive light, let alone one embroiled in a highly contentious business and labor environment.

Does the move evidence openness and transparency at Wal-Mart?  Is it a sign of maturation of PR to discuss $10 million spend as for any other operational activity?  Or is the article simply promotion for Edelman?

(1998) criticised the “invisible art” of PR where its role in influencing media is largely unrecognised by the public.  With new media and greater public awareness of public relations, a spotlight is being shone more and more on the behind the scenes workings of the practice.  Is this a good thing? 

reports on the recent fuss about the revelations of how public relations consultancy Waggener Edstrom prepared briefings on journalists for their client Microsoft – calling this “a very rare glimpse behind the proverbial curtain

Are we actually hiding behind a curtain today with so many text books on public relations explaining, advocating and theorising about our practices?    Is PR really involved in mystical  as implied by Michie – isn’t the reality more mundane?  Are we afraid that like magicians, our power will dissipate if the workings are revealed?

Doesn’t greater transparency counter criticisms of public relations as evil, manipulative, , and  ?  Or is that what is really hiding behind the curtain?

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

2 thoughts on “What is hiding behind the public relations curtain?”

  1. Of course, if public relations is about press agentry, the cat is out of the bag. If it is propaganda (Moloney) its days are numbered. If it is about marketing, it will die with its master. If it is about aiding convergence of values, it is jolly hard work and anyone who can do it well, will be valueable beyond measure.

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