OPINION: Industry getting stronger at own comms

In a mellow and reflective mood it is possible to look back fondly on the passing of another 12 months and conclude that it has been a pretty good year for PR.

Generally industry growth patterns are positive, revenue predictions remain robust despite current economic chills, and our trade continues to be viewed as prestigious by talented young recruits.

The burgeoning multi-platform media give publicists an ever-broader canvas across which to create campaigns. At the same time, the omniscience of the media creates the imperative for brands and individuals from all fields of endeavour to hire skilled practitioners to protect and enhance reputation.

I have noticed that print media are generally more receptive even than a year ago to interview and picture deals based on copy approval. Throughout 2007 the realisation dawned on many editors that a fav­ourable way to solve or avert legal disputes was to deal through a skilled PRO.

I, and others, have been involved in brokering settlements beneficial to clients without their incurring either high legal costs or the enduring enmity of a sued newspaper.

Our industry has not yet reached parity with some other professions in that the appointment of the PR is not yet as automatic as the hiring, say, of the lawyer or the accountant. But the ubiquity of the media means that we are moving inexorably in that direction.

Realisation grew throughout 2007 that dealing with the media is only a job for the PR specialist. Our ability to diffuse or avert a crisis or to tap creatively into the editorial processes is  becoming more widely recognised as the industry’s client base continues to grow and diversify.

Generally the PR industry is becoming better at marketing itself and at managing its own image. It does also, however, have to deal with – as I have remarked before – a spiralling myth out in the wider world of our trade. In pubs and offices up and down the country, away from the rarefied media world of the capital, there is much talk of spin doctors and spin.

Sometimes, anecdotes and myths are recounted with awe. More often references to our profession tend to be of the faintly derogatory kind that put PR people on the same sort of levels of popularity as estate agents and politicians in polls.

A major lesson of the year is that we have to learn better to handle our own popular notoriety while at the same time embracing the opportunities it gives us to continue to grow our markets.

Meanwhile, let’s raise a glass to the passing of a successful year and the hope of an even better one ahead.

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

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