Can it ever be right to name and shame?

This is a debate that has rumbled for many years and will carry on for many years to come. Is it right for journalists to name (and effectively shame) PRs for shoddy work?

Last week respected journalist Sally Whittle revealed on her blog how she had been in the receiving end of an over eager PR who was angry about a client not being covered in story.

I’m sure many of you have seen the post. This kicked off a debate on Twitter as to whether Sally ought to call out the person (or their agency) publicly or just have a quiet word with the culprit’s boss.

Personally I’m in the name and shame camp. While I accept that it’s unfair for journalists to ‘ruin’ the careers of PRs by calling them out whever they make a boo boo, there is a difference between an error of judgement and completely lacking any common sense.

PRs constantly bemoan the poor reputation the industry has but unless we collectively call out bad practice, my fear is that nothing will change. When doctors, lawyers and accountants make errors they run the risk of being struck off their professional bodies or having their licenses revoked. Now I’m not saying what this person did was so grave that they shouldn’t work in PR again but it does raise the issue of having a collective set of professional guidelines by which we should all abide by.

Reputation is the currency is which PRs trade and if a PR is unaware of how their actions will affect the reputation or their client or agency then perhaps a harsh reality check is in order.

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I predict a “Mobile phone causes radiation” story this Sunday

Those who work with me will know one of my pet hates is dodgy science dressed up as news. There might be some who question how I can work in PR, an industry that has also been guilty of such practices.  I believe there is a difference between presenting information it a positive light to promote a product or service and actively looking for validation for a story or myth that has no scientific or statistically backing. Which brings me on to this request from the Mail on Sunday:

Screen shot 2009-11-02 at 15.34.37I might be wrong but how can this be anything but a story designed to scare and misinform people? Surely the request should be for anyone experts with new research on the link between mobile phones and brain tumours? I hope I’m wrong (It’s the Mail so maybe not) but await Sunday to see exactly what ‘expert’ has been put forward and what the latest claim will be.