Editorial: PRSA should first tend to its own PR

Doing PR for the PRSA has to be one of the toughest jobs in this business. The association has built itself a reputation for spectacularly poor PR, driven by political machination and squabbling (at both the national and local level), Byzantine committee-led processes, some seriously misguided agendas and a curious tendency to overreact, air dirty linen in public and generally say the wrong thing. And to cap it all off, it is held accountable not only by its 20,000+ members, but by one of the most hostile trade publications in any industry. Is it any wonder that since the last head of PR, Richard George, left 18 months ago, there has been no one to fill the vacancy?

Doing PR for the PRSA has to be one of the toughest jobs in this business. The association has built itself a reputation for spectacularly poor PR, driven by political machination and squabbling (at both the national and local level), Byzantine committee-led processes, some seriously misguided agendas and a curious tendency to overreact, air dirty linen in public and generally say the wrong thing. And to cap it all off, it is held accountable not only by its 20,000+ members, but by one of the most hostile trade publications in any industry. Is it any wonder that since the last head of PR, Richard George, left 18 months ago, there has been no one to fill the vacancy?

Doing PR for the PRSA has to be one of the toughest jobs in this

business. The association has built itself a reputation for

spectacularly poor PR, driven by political machination and squabbling

(at both the national and local level), Byzantine committee-led

processes, some seriously misguided agendas and a curious tendency to

overreact, air dirty linen in public and generally say the wrong thing.

And to cap it all off, it is held accountable not only by its 20,000+

members, but by one of the most hostile trade publications in any

industry. Is it any wonder that since the last head of PR, Richard

George, left 18 months ago, there has been no one to fill the

vacancy?



Now, the PRSA intends to change all that. The appointment of Catherine

Bolton to the new position of chief public relations officer is designed

to raise the importance of PR within the society to a new level, with

Bolton specifically responsible for ’advancing the profession’ and

’global leadership.’ That promotion seems only right. The profession

should practice what it preaches about the importance of PR in the

management mix.



What makes the appointment so interesting is the fact that Bolton has

not been asked to do PR for the PRSA so much as the entire PR

industry.



While we applaud this noble aim, one wonders if this is a realistic

priority given the image of the PRSA itself. The PRSA should get its own

house in order before it goes on to consider external audiences, or

indeed to provide ’global leadership.’



Tell us something we didn’t know



Two surveys that came to our attention recently underscore the need for

more in-depth research in the PR profession.



First, Interbrand gauged the ’brand value’ of the world’s leading

brands, and its findings were as uninspiring as they were unsurprising:

the top 10 stayed pretty much the same as last year, technology brands

dominated the top five and Internet brands such as Yahoo! and Amazon

showed the highest growth over the past year. And despite a terrible

year, Coke retained its number-one ranking, a testament to the

resiliency of a strong brand.



Ho-hum stuff.



Interbrand says it measures brand value ’as a percentage of market

capitalization, revenues and other performance indicators.’ But how

exactly is this measured?



What performance indicators are we talking about? Coke has a ’brand

value’ of dollars 72.5 billion, just ahead of Microsoft’s dollars 70.2

billion. What does this mean? And how does it relate to corporate

reputation?



Next, the Public Affairs Group released its ’Best Companies Special

Report,’ which was really not that special. It’s basically an

amalgamation of past research done by PAG and surveys taken by Fortune,

The Financial Times and other publications. Want to guess who topped the

list? Coke, Amazon, Intel, GE, McDonalds - the same companies Interbrand

lauded. What a surprise.



Surveys like these don’t tell us what we really want to know: first, how

a company gets on these lists, and second, how a company moves up or

down them. We don’t doubt the research skills of Interbrand and the PAG

- we just wish they looked a little deeper.



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