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Restraining Orders for the P.R. Profession

Pass only at your own risk

This is a post by PR columnist, Alison Kenney.

What is going on? When did P.R. start meaning “please refrain”?

I mean, I’m used to hearing grouchy editors rag on P.R. tactics during their keynote speeches. I smile politely and wait to hear their advice on how best to pitch them if I really want to get coverage for my clients.

But what used to be a low background din has become a maelstrom of ill-will towards the P.R. profession.

The latest influential personality to rant against P.R. people is Forrester’s Josh Bernoff, whose biggest beef is the unsolicited emails he receives

Yes, Bernoff could ignore or delete those emails, but most likely he’s bothered by their persistence and is trying to do something about it. Apparently, just unsubscribing doesn’t always cut it, and sometimes there is no unsubscribe feature (such as on a press release). Which led me to wonder how P.R. firms get around the CAN-SPAM act? (Bernoff counters via Twitter that “It’s not clear that PR emails are covered by FTC. Plus, their CAN SPAM enforcement is weak. This is an ethical issue, not legal.”)

It also led me to wonder why unsolicited email is so offensive from P.R. people. I receive hundreds of unsolicited emails too — from sales people at a range of different firms. But I don’t post rants on each individual sender the way these folks do:

So what do we do? Many folks chastise their comrades and take the “hey, we’re better than that” attitude. Some use it as a chance to kiss up to the cranky reporters with a “thanks for pointing that out.” PRSA tries to stay above the fray; it’s response to Josh Bernoff’s post “sounds like it was written by a P.R. professional” according to Bernoff (via Twitter).

What do you think? Is P.R. in need of some good P.R. for itself? If so, how is P.R. doing well and what are we doing right? Let’s start that conversation for a change.

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on You can find her at Learn more about Alison Kenney.


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