As the public relations industry grows in size and stature, it is coming under increasing scrutiny by the public, media and government. But not all scrutiny is bad, especially if it helps broaden the understanding of a profession and advances its role and value.
Twice in the past year there have been investigations into public relations spending by the federal government. The most recent was launched in late February by Senator Claire McCaskill (D–Mo.) and Senator Rob Portman (R–Ohio), who have triggered a wide-ranging investigation of the federal government’s use of public relations and advertising services. At the initial stages of this inquiry the Subcommittee is seeking data for the past five years pertaining to “contracts for the acquisition of public relations, publicity, advertising, communications, or similar services” at 11 separate Federal agencies. We have our concerns, which we expressed directly with the Senators and through an op-ed published in Roll Call.
It isn’t surprising that government spending on public relations is being scrutinized during times of economic austerity, when politicians of all stripes compete to be the most prudent with taxpayers’ funds. Such scrutiny — if conducted fairly and objectively — may prove valuable for public relations.