I am publishing this article which appeared in the Philippine Star on October 1, 2006 entitled “What PR is all about” by Charlie Agatep. One of the pioneering and most-respected PR practitioners in the country, Mr. Agatep is the president of Agatep Associates and a former president of the Public Relations Society of the Philippines. He was also a professor of PR and advertising in UST, St. Paul College and Assumption College.
What PR is all about
By Charlie Agatep
By Charlie Agatep
“The intriguing case about a certain Alfonso Liongson who was paid the sum of $2 million to do a questionable PR job for Piatco has cast a black eye on the PR profession. It has eroded the legitimacy of qualified PR practitioners who have worked hard to attain the high standards of ethics required in the profession.
What Mr. Liongson is perceived to have done for Piatco was to cover up anomalous Piatco transactions by influencing certain government officials to insert onerous provisions in the DOTC-Piatco Concession Agreement. That is not public relations. That is economic sabotage.
The late Pete Teodoro of Philprom and Joe Carpio of San Miguel Corporation defined Public Relations as ‘doing good and telling the public about it.’ This fundamental truth about what PR is, and what PR does, has been the basis of legitimate PR practice. PR is making significant contributions to our democratic society by embracing what Thomas Jefferson described as the ‘engineering of public consent.’
Edward L. Bernays, the acknowledged father of public relations, described a PR consultant as a social scientist who advises a client on the attitudes and actions he must take in order to appeal to the public it serves.
Bernays suggested that the PR consultant ascertains thru research how the client is perceived by the public, then advises what action programs the client must undertake to earn public acceptance.
In my many years in the PR profession, my guiding principle has been to help individuals and organizations tell their stories well. Stories about their social responsibility projects that improve the quality of life. Or about their contributions to make this world a better place to live in.
For example, the Shell Malampaya project does not only provide a cleaner source of energy, it also paves the way for sustainable social development programs to help underprivileged Filipinos, especially those living in Palawan, Mindoro, Batangas and Subic. On the other hand, GlaxoSmithKline’s anti-diabetes study involving 5,269 people promises to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and certainly gives hope to 4 million Filipinos who are affected by this disease today. Cathay Pacific Airways’ 60th anniversary this year reminds us that this airline was conceived by two soldiers in a classy Manila bar in 1946. These are shining examples of good deeds well told. Telling these stories well is what legitimate PR professionals do for the most part of their PR practice.
Unfortunately, a PR consultant does not enjoy the same respectability accorded to a lawyer, a medical doctor, an engineer or an architect because there are no educational requirements or licensing boards to regulate PR practice. Therefore, any Alfonso or Juan can hang up a shingle declaring himself as a PR practitioner. Companies who wish to employ a PR consultant have difficulty in selecting the right person because there are no standards by which to measure qualifications. Qualified PR practitioners are, on the other hand, demeaned by PR pretenders who do not have the experience, education and skills that true PR practitioners have labored hard to acquire.
Communications is the tool of the public relations consultant. And it is through communications that we, PR practitioners, must try and protect our honorable profession from being stripped of its legitimacy by incompetents who masquerade as PR consultants.
Public relations is a profession of great social impact. PR practitioners heavily influence the channels of communication and should therefore be held responsible and accountable for the attitudes and behavior of the publics they are constantly trying to reach.
It is the consensus in the PR industry that Piatco was merely using Liongson’s name as a convenient justification for a hidden expense.
Liongson is not a true PR consultant. He is not a member of the dominant Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP), which held its 13th national PR congress from September 27 to 29.”