The White House communications staff is arguably the most visible set of communications professionals in the country. And, according to a recent study, they could be damaging the industry.
This study, published by the USC Center for PR, says a majority of the industry believes the White House communications staff, currently led by Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is hurting the industry’s reputation. It cites the team’s “constantly changing views and statements,” with 64 percent of respondents saying the communications team “purposefully lies.”
The duo hasn’t exactly been gaffe-proof. During his first few days on the job, Spicer went back and forth with reporters over crowd sizes. On January 21, the interwebs filled with stories like this one – “Sean Spicer told at least 5 untruths in 5 minutes.”
Saturday Night Live rejoiced and celebrated its highest ratings in more than 20 years, spoofing “Spicey” in a series of skits that should earn Melissa McCarthy some kind of award. (Regardless of anyone’s political affiliation, you can admit her impression is hilarious.)
But still, that meant viewers were laughing at someone in our field.
According to the survey, more than 70 percent of the respondents believe the current White House PR team is affecting the perception of the industry as a whole, with more 80 percent responding that the communications team “constantly changes their views and distorts the truth.”
Here’s what we already knew: Journalists can be skeptical of PR professionals. It’s part of their job. They meet nearly every tidbit of information with a tidbit of skepticism. So, let’s take a page out of our peers’ books, and meet this study with a bit of hesitation.
The respondents in this survey are all members of our profession, but not members of the general public. Secondly, more than half of the respondents identified as liberal, while only 15 percent identified as conservative. That doesn’t make the poll incorrect, but it’s worth noting that those whose political ideologies do not align with the administration may judge its PR team more harshly.
And here’s the more obvious point: The White House communications team really isn’t representative of the industry as a whole. It’s a unicorn. No one else in the country is speaking for the leader of the free world.
It is undeniable that our industry is in some sort of spotlight, but there’s no need to pull out that crisis plan just yet.