Editorial: Don’t ditch PR in the hour of need

For all the indications in recent weeks of the enhanced status and bulging pay packets of in-house PR practitioners, this week’s lead story about Bristol-Myers Squibb emphasises just how precarious PR’s newfound status is.

For all the indications in recent weeks of the enhanced status and

bulging pay packets of in-house PR practitioners, this week’s lead story

about Bristol-Myers Squibb emphasises just how precarious PR’s newfound

status is.



Chris Davies, BMS’s director of government and public affairs and Fiona

Stratford, its public affairs manager, are not just the casualties of a

cost-cutting exercise which has claimed victims right across Europe but

also of the tendency to see PR as an optional extra, something you can

indulge in when the business is doing well and drop when conditions are

less favourable. The truth is that good public relations is even more

vital when a company is going through bad times.



The problem is that even though PR is developing into a more

professional discipline, many companies still think of it as something

any manager should be able to do. And the industry has itself at least

partly to blame for that perception. Are we not constantly told that PR

and corporate reputation are a major part of any chief executive’s job.

So how can we complain when they decide they might as well do the job

themselves?



The extraordinary growth of the in-house sector has been noted here

before, as has its consequence for the consultancy business in the shift

from retainers to more ad hoc projects. The question is just how secure

those gains will be when the next downturn comes. Last time the

consultancies took the brunt, but the next recession may well hit the

in-house sector much harder.



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