is it time to ditch 'public relations' as a title?

A blogger this month spoke of the importance of job titles and how he had managed to remove 'communications' from his job title. That got us thinking. Does the phrase 'public relations' have too much of a loaded connotation? Is it time to change? Our 60-second poll showed some surprising findings...

by Dan Slee

Ask people not connected with public relations what PR means and the chances are they'll think Alastair Campbell, Max Clifford or Malcolm Tucker.

Or they'll think of some sinister newspaper manipulating puppet master whose approach to the truth is sometimes called into question.

PR is a mix of journalism, psychology, it’s an ever-changing and always interesting landscape, says PR thinker Ronn Torossian. Maybe. But after eight years in the field I know the Malcolm Tucker image is not quite true. It's no more true than the image of the door-stepping journalist on Eastenders. Sometimes it is but the vast majority of the time it isn't.

But what do the profession think?

Is the phrase 'public relations' so loaded as to get in the way of the job we do?

So, we decided to run a quick 60 second poll of people of the comms professionals who follow our Twitter stream. It's unscientific. But there's enough there from the 49 who responded to flag this up for further critical analysis. 

Here's what people said:

Q: So, one blogger on comms2point0 this week spoke of how he thought it important to remove 'public relations' from their job title. Do you agree?

Yes 69.4 per cent

No 30.6 per cent

Q: Can you describe what you think the phrase 'public relations' does for the industry?

It helps. It is something I'm proud of... 8.2 per cent

I'm happy to sit on the fence and be neutral... 22.4 per cent

It hinders. It has negative connotations... 69.4 per cent

Q: Which of these job titles has a future? You can tick as many as you like...

Press officer... 47.9 per cent

Public relations officer... 22.9 per cent

Marketing officer... 39.6 per cent

Media officer... 72.9 per cent

Account executive... 27.1 per cent

Content creator... 56.3 per cent

In addition, of the 49 respondants two suggested public engagement officer, four suggested communications officer, one reputation or relationship manager and one suggested that 'terms are not important, it's actions that matter.'

So what conclusions to draw from the findings? It's time to start thinking about job titles is one. It's also striking how a majority - 69.4 per cent - thought it important to take public relations out of the title and the same figure saying that it hinders and has negative connotations.

Certainly, if we were advising people about the name they were using for a brand or a campaign with figures like those we'd be asking people to think again and chose an alternative. Unless there was a major stack of cash to help fund the campaign that was needed to change those perceptions. So, should you be taking a long hard look at the phrase 'public relations' if it's in your job title or department name?

Certainly, the poll said that pr officer as a job title didn't have a future. Just over 20 per cent of people thought it did while 72.9 per cent thought media officer was a better description. Almost half - 47.9 per cent - said that press officer had a future. With the declining press industry and the increase in other channels that's maybe surprising.

But what this does raise is the importance of job titles and how people percieve you. Is it time you started to think about yours? 

Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0.

Picture credit.