A survey of public relations professionals released Tuesday by the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found that 73.2 percent of respondents across the political spectrum believe the current White House communications team is impacting the public perception of the PR industry, and not in a positive way.
“It’s clear from the results of our survey that the PR industry would prefer to distance itself from the current White House communications team, whose practices are not reflective of the values of the broader industry,” said Fred Cook, director of USC Annenberg’s Center for Public Relations.
“The vast majority of PR professionals believe that honest, open communication leads to constructive dialogue and shared understanding, both of which are in short supply these days,” he said.
Of the 900 survey respondents, 55.3 percent identified themselves as liberal, 29.6 percent identified themselves as moderate and 15.1 percent identified themselves as conservative. When asked if the current White House communications team is impacting the image of the PR profession, 77.4 percent of liberals agreed, along with 77.2 percent of moderates and 53.9 percent of conservatives.
When asked about various aspects of the perceived performance of the overall White House communications team:
— 83.7 percent agree they “constantly change their views/statements”;
— 80.2 percent agree they “distort the truth”;
— 63.5 percent agree they “purposefully lie”;
— 36.3 percent agree they “do their best despite the circumstances”;
— 32 percent agree they “work hard to explain the administration’s policies”;
— 15.7 percent agree they “are treated unfairly by the media”;
— 13.3 percent agree they “are strategic in their approach”; and
— 11.6% agree they “act like PR professionals.”
A majority of PR practitioners surveyed believe that Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders have made a negative impact on the perception of their profession.
Ninety percent of respondents believe Conway’s impact has been negative, with 78 percent describing her effect as “very” negative. Ninety percent also said Spicer has a negative impact, with 59.4 percent describing it as “very” negative. Huckabee Sanders’ effect was described as negative by 56.5%.
“It’s always difficult to evaluate an individual’s performance when you don’t really know what’s going on behind the scenes,” Cook said. “However, it’s obvious that the broader PR community is deeply concerned about the long-term consequences of the White House’s approach to communications.”
While 36 percent of PR professionals agree that current White House communications team members do “their best under difficult circumstances,” the majority indicated they would not hire the current press secretary or deputy press secretary in a PR-related job, if they were in a position to do so.
If asked by the current president to join the administration’s communications team, the overwhelming majority of PR practitioners said they would not accept jobs in the White House, with 6 percent saying they would accept the job of press secretary or deputy press secretary and 7 percent saying they would accept the job of director of social media. Of the conservatives polled, 75 percent said they would not accept an invitation to become press secretary.
The online survey was distributed to PR professionals across the United States via email and social media channels between May 30 and June 8, resulting in a “convenience sample” of 902 qualified responses, representing all 50 states. Nearly 70 percent of the respondents were between the ages of 35 and 64, and 51 percent have 20-plus years of experience in the communication field.
Fifty percent work in public relations or communication agencies; 26 percent work in public and private corporations; and 16 percent work in government agencies or nonprofit organizations. About 57 percent were female and 41 percent were male, with the remainder not identifying their gender.
–City News Service