Monday, January 31, 2005

Profit and PR 

Having been to business school, I have witnessed opposition between the way businesspeople think and PR practitioners speak. The two groups aren't from the same world, or at least, from the same assumptions. MBAs think revenues and earnings. Their motive and success is profit. Reputation, relationships and ethics are added complications to an otherwise simple formula. You are measured by money you make.

Recently, an article in the Financial Times addressed this issue in relation to business school teaching. A business school professor was unhappy that so few of his students understood or cared about ethics. But it made sense that they wouldn't. Their finance, accounting and marketing courses are about profit, about return without relationship to the larger context of business. Their spreadsheets do not have factors for relationships, reputation or ethics. These are off-book items that may be important but don't get one a top grade in a finance course.

Hence, this article, which examines the profit motive against PR principles. PR doesn't come off well. PR practitioners are outsiders who often shout to the deaf. And, regrettably, that is the way it will be. Business exists without ethics other than completion of a transaction. Ethics are imposed on the transaction by buyer and seller and by regulators. Economic transactors can be legitimate businesspersons or crooks. It makes no difference. Even PR principles can be subverted for use in illegal businesses.

The article is bleak but it does not toss reputation, relationships or ethics. It makes the practitioner aware that hewing to these principles means a lifelong fight to be recognized and frequent defeat. But then, you knew that anyway.


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