UPDATE: Writer of USA Today slam piece responds via e-mail

Posted by Dan Keeney

Please do not buy this book

Yesterday I sent Seth Brown an e-mail asking a few questions. As detailed in the post, “USA Today book review slams public relations ethics,” Seth penned a book review for USA Today and, in the process, dragged the entire public relations profession through the mud.

The piece has also prompted the chair and CEO of PRSA to send a letter to the editor to the newspaper expressing the organization’s concerns about the way the profession is depicted in the article. For his part, Seth says what he wrote is reflective of the statements in the book he was reviewing. If we don’t like the way the profession is characterized, we should take it up with the authors of the the book, “PR: A Persuasive Industry: Spin, Public Relations and the Shaping of the Modern Media.”

I asked Seth if he minded if I posted our correspondence and he has given permission. Below is my note to Seth followed by his response:


Congrats on your piece in
USA Today. Question: you cited a survey that found, “most professionals don’t
feel telling the truth is a duty of PR.”

Can you point me to this
poll and give me the citation?

You also noted that there
is no universally recognized test for PR practitioners. I am assuming you are
aware of the Universal Accreditation Board and the test for accreditation in
public relations. Obviously, since the practice of PR is essentially communicating,
you can’t constrain someone’s ability to practice (would be a First Amendment
violation), but the PR community does advocate this universally accepted test
as evidence of knowledge, proficiency and experience.

By the way, the lead
character in Sex and the City was a JOURNALIST not a PR person.


From: Seth [mailto:seth@risingpun.com]
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 11:33 PM
To: Daniel Keeney, APR
Subject: Re: Your USA Today piece…


The book says the vote was taken at the University of Westminster in London
during 2007 after a debate about the same topic, and that a similar vote (with
similar results) occurred at the Sorbonne in Paris later that year. Hope that
helps. If not, you might take a peek at that section of the book yourself
(Chapter 4), and/or contact Morris and Goldsworthy themselves for some

As for a universally recognized test, the authors wrote that PR is a constantly
evolving field. Perhaps the APR certification will become what they would
consider a universal standard sometime down the road.

The book mentioned that PR had become more glamorous because one of the
characters on Sex and the City was a PR professional living a glamorous
lifestyle — I think her name was Samantha. Truth be told, I haven’t actually
seen the show.


Seth Brown



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This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 11th, 2009 at 8:29 pm and is filed under Public Relations Advice. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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