Continued growth remains atop the Council's agenda

Sponsored by the Council of PR firms

Sponsored by the Council of PR firms

It has been a fast start to the year for the Council of Public Relations Firms. One of our first priorities has been to shape the next stage of our development. As our industry's continuing growth curve suggests, more and more organizations are deploying the value PR brings to their objectives. Thus, we have many opportunities to enrich our profession and industry if we more strongly define the role PR will have in the businesses of tomorrow.

Determining PR's Value Proposition

Last month, a representative group of Council-member CEOs held a strategic planning session that was marked by forward-looking, thoughtful, and spirited discussion. I was struck by the optimism these industry leaders have about PR's expanding role, their strong wish to gain much greater traction for our value, and their desire to drive the agenda of what excellence means in our profession.

The ongoing tumult in the marketing space is helping make this an exciting time for our business. We're moving away from marketer control to consumer control, which has powerful implications not only for the marketing assignments that mark so much of our firms' work, but also for the corporate and public affairs arenas. PR has the advantage over other disciplines because we build brands, shape reputation, educate, and - perhaps most importantly now - create and sustain dialogue with consumers. Moreover, we build dialogues with all stakeholders - something no other discipline can do.

Issues Management

The leaders from the planning session discussed current and future issues that we as a trade group must be vigilant about if we are to protect our members' interests. Disclosure and transparency, for example, will remain key issues until we show that the questionable conduct of a few outlying groups does not define an entire industry.

This environment requires a more forceful posture by all of us. We need to drive the agenda of what is considered appropriate (and inappropriate) practice, as well as model these standards within our own firms and in our advice to clients - many of whom are also revisiting their own internal standards. Our board will take another look at this issue, given the revelations over the past few months that firms purporting to be PR companies are engaging in practices, such as pay for play, that have absolutely no role in our industry.

Among the keys to ensuring proper standards once you have them, our members say, is having internal issues training and more open discussion with staff. These can be powerful ways to help employees fully recognize the dangers of lack of transparency and how disclosure can be accomplished without jeopardizing client confidentiality or competitiveness.

The Council provides guidance to its members in the form of a code of ethics, the Stockholm Charter, and last year's statement of principles, which specifically addressed transparency and disclosure. These are necessary foundations. However, the Council's next steps will be to fortify these codes and strengthen our membership criteria so that this organization truly represents America's leading firms.

The Council has grown in many ways since its creation eight years ago, yet we need to evolve to the next level in order to capitalize on the opportunities ahead. It is a credit to our members' dedication that we continue to seek ways to improve and focus this organization, and our industry overall, so our collective voices can be heard.

Helen Ostrowski is CEO of Porter Novelli and is the 2006 Chair of the Council of Public Relations Firms.

The Council is dedicated to strengthening the recognition and role of public relations firms in corporate strategy, business performance, and social education, serving as an authoritative source of information and expert comment and helping set standards for the PR industry. For more information about the Council of Public Relations Firms, call 1-877-PRFIRMS or visit our website at www. prfirms.org.

This column is contributed and paid for by the Council of PR Firms.

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