Passion is not a marker of ability

Type into Google the phrase 'passionate about what we do', accompanied by 'PR', and a couple of dozen PR companies will pop up declaring the same term of endearment for their work and their clients.

Ian Monk: 'No more intrinsic link exists between passion and ability than does between enthusiasm and accomplishment.'
Ian Monk: 'No more intrinsic link exists between passion and ability than does between enthusiasm and accomplishment.'

Lovely. A measure of passion tends to enrich most spheres of human endeavour.

But should it really be a unique selling point of a PR company? Professionally, I suspect makers of cupcakes and pet foods would probably equally declare their passion for their products. I doubt, though, they would offer it as a headline reason for choosing their wares.

Equally, most lawyers, surgeons and accountants would disdain a question asking if they were passionate about their business, preferring to advertise expertise and skill built on more tangible strengths.

Certainly, passion as a professional virtue does not tend to figure on Harley Street or Inns of Court websites.

Most respected professionals in these fields, steeped as they are in rigorous training and professional disciplines, recognise that no more intrinsic link exists between passion and ability than does between enthusiasm and accomplishment.

For most professionals, passion - were it to be claimed as a workplace merit - would come as a low-ranking adjunct to training, knowledge, skill and experience.

Why, then does PR seem to attach such importance to a quality that in professional terms seems little more than trite? At a time of valid and intelligent debate about the reputation of our industry, and who should be admitted as practitioners and who should be excluded, it seems a valid question to put into the mix.

The professional comms expert surely has enough demonstrable skills in his or her repertoire not to have to resort to passion as any sort of defining quality of professional excellence.

As an industry we would be better served by our practitioners offering clients the definable virtues of genuine professional accomplishment, rather than some nebulous passion that seems far better suited to the amateur dramatist whose enthusiasm embraces the West End but whose ability never will.

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

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