Platform: Winning the race for the pursuit of excellence - The sooner the industry as a whole recognises the need for open appraisal, the sooner it will reach maturity, says Jill Coomber

Sometimes it feels like PR has left the playground behind. In PR Week’s Agency Report (21 November), the large number of consultancies that achieved a five-star rating for their performance over the last year is testament to the industry’s developing credibility.

Sometimes it feels like PR has left the playground behind. In PR

Week’s Agency Report (21 November), the large number of consultancies

that achieved a five-star rating for their performance over the last

year is testament to the industry’s developing credibility.



Perhaps it reflects a manifest change within the public relations

industry.



While being overshadowed by advertising, PR practitioners have

occasionally been reluctant to display the experience and self-belief

that forces others to listen. What comes through strongly from the

Report is that PR consultancies are starting to take seriously the

demands of quality placed on them by clients. The successful ones have

found that PR has risen up the client’s agenda. In some instances it is

at the top, where it can and should stay.



The Agency Report could have been rather pointless - just another piece

of research masquerading as ’important issues addressed’. But it

succeeds precisely because it asks the right questions of the right

people and it subjects the PR industry to - for some - an uncomfortable

level of public scrutiny. Employing an independent research company was

not only sensible, it was essential. (As we all know, it takes only one

piece of partisan research to make journalists turn away in hordes from

our clients).



Yet how can the research be truly embracing if some companies decide not

to take part? To be of the greatest value to the industry every

consultancy that can be measured should be.



If we do not have the confidence to put our work forward for public

scrutiny we cannot claim any moral or actual authority. It should be an

absolute requirement that consultancies be measured, using the one

constant in this industry - our clients’ views, because if we are to

succeed and prosper we must consult and serve our clients exceptionally

well.



Yet that excellence, where it exists, needs recognition throughout this

industry and beyond. One way to achieve this may be to create a symbol

or emblem which five-star rated companies can print on company

stationery, for instance, as a mark of quality. This would identify that

the consultancy in question is recognised, by its own clients and the

industry, as being among the best.



It remains hard to fire enthusiasm among management and business

journalists as to the merits of PR. Much more work needs to be done in

this field, by individual consultancies and industry associations. Too

rarely do we see case studies or examples of public relations in action

afforded the same level of interest in the media as, for example,

advertising, yet the prominence of so-called ’spin doctoring’ is both

damaging and misleading for the PR industry. Initiatives like the Agency

Report help PR rise from the status of back room function to a

recognised and, crucially, a sought after discipline. If the

contribution we make is acknowledged and applauded by our clients, then

the world should know.



Ultimately, the pursuit of excellence, the employment of excellent

people and the attitude that ’only excellence will do’ is all our

clients want to hear. Just as we want our clients to succeed, so they

appreciate their consultancies being recognised for work.



It is a question of being grown up about what we do. If the Report has

done anything for the industry, it has shown how much the PR

practitioners have answered demands for measurable and consistent

quality.



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