Why is the reputation of the PR industry so bad?

[I'm PRWEEK's guest blogger on the Insider this week. This is the first post in a series which is kindly being edited by Rose Gordon, News Editor. I'm cross posting it here, but if you have thoughts, please comment on the original post here.]

The PR sector has been reputedly dead, dying, or making a mess of it
for at least the last decade. We’ve all read the ‘PR people don’t get
it’ tirades. Many of them are valid. It’s a perennial story, but why?

I meet a lot of PR executives who are passionate and smart. So why
does the industry keep coming in for a hammering? Below I explore some
of the reasons in an unscientific manner, but tell me if any of these
ring true.

1. Barriers to entry – There is nothing to stop Joe Schmoe from
becoming a PR consultant: no mandatory professional qualification; no
registration; no entrance exam. There are more barriers to becoming a
real estate agent. This means there is a gravitational pull toward

2. Inexperienced buyers in an inefficient market – Ordinarily,
market forces should drive out the underperformers. But PR is a service
which people buy infrequently, so the selection criteria can be wrong
and weaker players engaged. The timeframes involved mean some firms
could jump from one client to the next, underperforming but staying in

3. It isn’t as bad as it sometimes seems – While the industry is far
from blameless in these issues, a PR error tends to be high profile –
an ill-considered email, a backfiring stunt, a poorly chosen sound bite, even typos and word selection come into criticism.

4. The industry bodies do not effectively regulate – For example,
the PRSA’s accreditations are not obligatory; there are no sanctions,
despite the good intentions.

None of these causes are so fundamental that we can’t overcome them. What do you think are the best solutions?