Another article just dropped criticising Effective Altruism, this time in the Wall Street Journal. I'm not linking to it here because it's garbage, but if you really want to look it up, the headline is 'Effective Altruism is neither'. I'd encourage you not to, so as not to help its readership figures. [EDIT: a mirror of the article is available in the comments. But it'll put your blood pressure up.]
Other people have written very good forum posts about why we should care about perception of EA, collecting other examples of damaging commentary and suggesting some things we could do to help improve the community's image. However, I haven't seen anyone suggesting that we should create an EA PR agency, or hire a team at a PR firm to influence perception of EA. I think this seems like a very good idea.
It seems at the moment like EA is leaving a vacuum, which is being filled by criticism. This is happening in multiple languages. Much of it could easily be countered but we're not in the game.
There are all sorts of reasons not to worry too much about this particular opinion piece. Its criticisms are transparently bad, I suspect even to the audience it's written for - suggesting that pandemic preparedness is 'shutting the door after the horse has bolted' is self-evidently stupid. I doubt the readers of the WSJ opinion page are a high priority, high potential audience for EA. Even if it was devastating criticism aimed a key audience, it might have bad reach and we'd only amplify it by responding.
However, the point is that we should have some experts deciding this, rather than the current situation where no one seems to be monitoring this or trying to respond on our behalf.
It seems to me that some dedicated PR professionals could fairly quickly move to a) place more positive pieces about EA in the mainstream media; b) give more exposure to high fidelity, convincing messengers from the community (e.g. Will MacAskill); c) become the go-to place for comment on damaging pieces (which currently don't ever seem to involve a response from anyone in the community); and even d) manage to head-off some of the most illogical, most bad-faith criticisms before they're published.
I've been advised by people in PR that the most cost-effective way to do this would be to hire a team of 2-3 full-time people from the PR sector and pay them at market rates (so I guess ~$500k/year). It's possible that it would be better to do this by hiring a PR agency with a pre-existing team (which has fewer start up costs) but people who work in PR say that, over time, you just end up paying exorbitant fees if you take this approach. I'd be happy with either, but instinctively lean towards the first.
In some ways, I think EA has already missed several golden PR opportunities, not least the release of several high profile books (where there has been some decent PR but I feel there probably could have been more); and the recent pandemic, which validated much of what the community has been saying for a long time. It would be good to avoid missing future opportunities; and also satisfying to see some counter-programming to take on these sporadic poor-quality/bad-faith critiques.
Call to action: if you agree, please comment or upvote; but, more importantly, send this on to people who might be able to fund this or otherwise make it happen. If you want to discuss the idea or think you can help, please DM me.