Not all PR is good PR

The public relations profession has often been dissed for crossing the line between fact and fiction.

It’s called ‘spin’ and critics are quite right to call PR people to the carpet for embroidering the truth. Our reputations as strategic communications advisors — and the very sustainability of our profession — hinges on our ability to present the facts in a way that is credible, provable and transparent.

Contrary to what many people believe, not all PR is good PR. Sometimes what looks like a good story is just that — a story. Spin, pure and simple. And because it’s wishful thinking, rather than reality, it doesn’t do what good PR is supposed to do which is to help people trust what is being said. And by virtue of trusting what is being said, trusting also the person saying it.

McDonald’s Canada recently launched a new ad campaign to try and ‘humanize’ the brand by showing people engaging with it directly. Great idea. I’m all for putting a human face on things.

The part that I have trouble believing is the campaign’s focus on the farming families who help to produce some of the food that McDonald’s sells.I have no problem with farmers, and if you follow my work, you’ll know I’m a big fan of local food.

The issue I have is with the spin. The ads insinuate that because farmers are most likely trustworthy people, therefore McDonald’s food is healthy and natural, and McDonald’s brand is therefore also good.

It’s not only bad logic. It’s wishful thinking. And a clear case where some PR is actually pretty bad.