EDITORIAL: DTI spotlight can only benefit PROs

Any PR consultant contacted by the Department of Trade and Industry or the IPR as part their joint research project into the state of the industry announced this week should co-operate fully with their work. The more information that can be fed into this enterprise the better - from the point of view of the IPR, the PR industry and the business world at large. This is the most ambitious research project into the size and shape of the PR industry in almost a decade, with the laudable aim of assessing the performance and contribution the PR industry makes to the overall success of UK plc. In short, it is an initiative behind which PRWeek is proud to throw its weight.

The overarching aim of this wide-ranging project is to raise the bar on both standards and productivity in a business sector not famed for either. Just as there is plenty of good practice in PR, so there is plenty of bad. And just as there is dedicated and creative management and the odd far-sighted visionary, so there remains a degree of short-termism.

Any project that seeks ultimately to disseminate the good and eliminate the bad from the industry is to be warmly applauded.

This research will have no value as a whitewash. Indeed, the general misunderstanding about and antipathy towards PR in the business world means a frank and robust assessment of the industry's strengths and weaknesses is the only one likely to meet expectations.

So it will be a warts-and-all view of the industry you operate in. The added value for PR businesses - perhaps even the saving grace - is that non-PR business people will be taking part. In both the focus groups and the surveys, the thoughts of general management on the importance and utility of public relations as a corporate or marketing discipline will be invaluable because of its impartiality.

Although the overall results of the research will not be available until the autumn, the most optimistic front-end guess is that it will underline the return on investment corporations can expect from a PR pound over a pound spent on any of the other marketing disciplines.

But the hope must be that this research throws up bad and good practice in equal measure. How else will the industry be able to exorcise that style of work which lets it down in the public domain, or foster attitudes and working practices likely to prove its value to an increasingly sceptical outside world?

At the very least, this research will generate a database of best practice, a catalogue of useful case studies, and a realistic definition of the industry's positive and negative aspects. Take part.

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