Ian Monk: Cowboys damage our reputations

To its critics, including many inside the business, PR retains elements of a cottage industry - bereft of barriers to entry and as likely to be practised from front rooms as from offices. Others laud the professional diversity this brings to the industry.

Ian Monk: Cowboys damage our reputations
Ian Monk: Cowboys damage our reputations

Certainly it seems fair to say that the one-size-fits-all model is no more appropriate to our businesses than it is to, say, the legal or childcare professions.

Some clients want the bells and whistles of the big conglomerates, happy to pay the fee premiums that accompany the reputations of their own image makers.

Others eschew such corporate vanities and prefer a more bespoke outfit where their business is handled by senior operators rather than by multi-layered teams, whose big titles can sometimes owe more to the ability to leverage inflated hourly fees against them than to ability or achievement.

Such a diversity of offering contributes directly to the reach, size and credibility of the industry.

But there are worrying trends that have been ever present but that are becoming more pronounced in the current tough economic times. They involve the ranks of new recruits from all walks of more or less media-related life setting up as 'public relations' firms.

Some charge fees that might be regarded as low by their window cleaners. More damagingly, their frequent failures to deliver on promises are too often seen as an indictment of our industry as a whole instead of simply reflecting the lack of skill and expertise of an individual.

In the building or dentistry trades, such practitioners would be known as cowboys for the legacy of distrust and dissatisfaction they leave behind them. The PR business tends generally to be less condemnatory of the damage done to our collective reputation.

As a broad church we continue to welcome ex-journalists, ad-men, promotions girls, party organisers and media wannabes attracted by the open door of an industry without barriers to entry.

They, in turn, should pay us the respect of seeking tutelage and training before setting out to undercut professional fee levels and damaging industry reputation.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun

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