A couple of weeks ago, we spotlighted a story from the Washington Post about the number of public relations staffers hired by the Obama administration. It was an interesting article that spotlighted the growth in public relations employees within the federal agencies under the executive administration's purview.
It was initially shocking to me to see 5,238 PR people on staff in 2014 until I realized that this number included all of the agencies such as Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and the Veterans Administration. However, what did stand out to me was that over 2,100 of the PR staffers were at the Pentagon.
Many questions came to mind. One, how can they justify a median salary of $90,000 a year for a PR position? How many PR people are needed to get the job done? What is it that federal agency PR people do? I know in my past workings with federal government PR people during my reporter days, their main job seemed to be to ignore any requests I had.
We didn’t receive any feedback when we posted the story so maybe everyone is fine with these expenditures. And trust me, nobody is a bigger shill for the need for public relations that me – I have been on all sides of the industry and I absolutely stand tall for the necessity of having a professional PR person on board at all companies, non-profits, organizations and government entities. If you do work of any kind, a PR person can help you.
People complain frequently about government waste and there is always a need to review government spending and see where we might be better served freeing up taxpayer dollars. Is our spending on PR needs one of those? Maybe. I certainly find it interesting that agencies like Homeland Security and the Pentagon that are frequently shrouded in secrecy would be in need of record-number PR staffers.
It is not our goal to question whether or not this is too many or possibly even too few PR people to get the job done. And we certainly understand that scrutiny of government – and thus, the need to hire more “image” people – is at an all-time high. The question is, just how many is too many? I guess, that is for you to decide.