EDITORIAL - Back-biting will get PR nowhere

With his avowedly mischievous streak, Lewis PR founder Chris Lewis

will have relished the brouhaha kicked up by his column in The Financial

Times this week. For those who missed it - and judging by the noisy

response of industry figures, they are few - Lewis was scathing: 'My

first thought on discovering the existence of the IPR was to wonder how

so many of these scatterbrained and champagne-dependent luvvies had got

it together to form an institute in the first place.'



Despite the bile of his attack, Lewis made valid points. He is right to

point out that the PR industry is held in generally low public esteem

and that, in part, the blame for this must be laid at the door of the

IPR and PRCA. Both fail to capture media attention enough to become a

default mouthpiece for the industry. The fact that The Marketing Society

is to be addressed by Max Clifford at its Christmas lunch is evidence

enough of this - Clifford is good at what he does but he is not

representative of the industry.



It also bears stating that, despite the furious response of the industry

bodies' leaders this week, internal debate among practitioners is a

crucial hallmark of a confident industry.



But to suggest that both bodies do more harm than good is hard to stand

up if you have never been a member of either, nor ever sought to

join.



By contrast, and despite the collegiate and friendly intra-industry

atmosphere promoted by both the IPR and the PRCA, one line in the Lewis

diatribe seems easy to support - his claim that there is 'no industry

more bitchy and back-biting' than PR. This is especially so for those,

such as Lewis, prepared to wash PR's dirty linen in public. When that

public is FT readers - the European business community on whose goodwill

the PR world is dependent for future success - it is plain that Lewis

has done the industry no favours.



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