The debate on PR's reputation rumbles on

Thank you to everyone who has so far responded to last week's open invitation to debate how best to improve the reputation of the PR profession.

Ruth Wyatt: 'Max Clifford is a publicist and press agent, not a public relations specialist, which has been explained eruditely at length, in robust Anglo Saxon and concisely.'
Ruth Wyatt: 'Max Clifford is a publicist and press agent, not a public relations specialist, which has been explained eruditely at length, in robust Anglo Saxon and concisely.'

There’s always that slightly worrying period immediately after issuing such an invitation – a bit like a teenager announcing a house party on Twitter and wondering if no-one will care or whether half the county will come and wreck your parents’ house.

I’m delighted that the PRWeek virtual postbag has bulged with intelligent and impassioned comment. So much so I cannot possibly do justice to it in a leader and will be running a feature rounding up opinions received next week.

Both last week’s column and leader generated a considerable amount of flak and that too is welcome. If you disagree with something in these pages, damn well say so and preferably to us.

It is worth pointing out, though, that neither piece eulogised Max Clifford the person; both commented on his handling of what can only be described as personal crisis management. Others disagreed over this view. Many – a great many – respondents took umbrage at Clifford being described as a PR professional.

He is a publicist and press agent, not a public relations specialist, which has been explained eruditely at length, in robust Anglo Saxon and concisely.

Point taken.

For the record, I agree but I don’t think the outside world understands that distinction or that the national newspaper editors putting Clifford through the mill will be overly troubled by it either. So I reckon that for now the business is stuck with having him labelled part of it.

And that brings us back to reputation management. So here’s a taster of next week’s piece.

CIPR president Sue Wolstenholme asserts: ‘The best approach is to stop referring to the whole sweep of practitioners crowding under the PR umbrella as being part of a profession. The vast majority of them are not professionals.’

Pielle Consulting senior consultant Peter Walker comments: ‘I am not sure his being charged with sex offences has any bearing on the reputation of PR practice per se. The revelations about Jimmy Savile didn’t damage the BBC – the insight it provided into the organisation, its structure and management did that. I think the same holds true for the examples you cite.’

There’s a lot more where this came from. If you have not already had your say, I urge you to have it now.

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