PR is no business for angels. It’s a tough, competitive enterprise that rewards strength and power over empathy and collaboration. And yet I have dedicated my career to, and helped build one of the world’s most successful agencies around, a proposition some will find naïve; that PR can and should be a force for good in business, government and society.
Don’t get me wrong. I know we have some way to go before our real value is widely understood and appreciated. But I am convinced that, at its best, PR is a powerful force for good, not to mention a thoroughly decent and honourable career. And here’s why…
1) Today PR exists to help change the way in which companies operate, not just communicate. We are the ones guiding the at times reluctant, awkward and ill-prepared into the sunlight of public opinion. We are the ones encouraging a positive dialogue between mighty, towering organisations and ordinary citizens, bloggers and journalists.
2) We invest a stack of money in creativity – we fund a global army of writers, designers, music producers and film makers. We celebrate creativity at every opportunity and help improve the aesthetic of everyday life through artistic talent.
3) The clients we work with have every right to express an opinion. And PR counsel that offers recommendations on how to bring their actions into alignment with the expectations of their stakeholders can be no bad thing. Through this advice, PR is relentlessly helping to cultivate better values in business and government across the world.
4) There is intrinsic value in our work. Campaigns to promote health or the environment are obvious, but even campaigns that may seem controversial at face value foster debate that can have a positive impact on society. We may want to do more to enlighten public and client opinion, but we are bound by the same democratic and capitalist constraints as everyone else.
5 ) Economic prosperity is driven by commerce, and commerce depends on the constant exchange of accurate information. Social progress depends on motivated and organised communities, connected and inspired to address problems, issues and injustices. We help deliver both.
Day in, day out, PR is changing the world for the better. And the best agencies are hiring believers – people who share a passion for making the world a better place, one step at a time, through the innovation and efforts of their clients.
Be proud of what you do, and do things of which you can be proud.
David Gallagher is senior partner, CEO, Europe and London chairman at Ketchum