In order to test effects of motives, communication style and licensing on the reputations of sponsors of public relations, a 4 × 2 × 2 factorial design experiment was conducted by the author with 585 non‐student adults and undergraduate university students in the USA. Perceived motives to impression manage had a strong effect on results, with prosocial or mixed and selfish motives seen as a ‘hustle’ on the part of corporate sponsors. Mixed support was found for licensing as a means of enhancing the reputation of public relations. Communication style — ‘symmetric’ versus ‘persuasive’ — had no effect on results. Impression management theory suggests that perceived motives and self‐interests may explain the poor reputation sometimes attributed to public relations and its clients or sponsors.
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