Just to be on the safe side, I feel I must start this column with a
four-letter acronym: e&oe - errors and omissions excepted. You would
understand entirely if you had just left yourself cross-eyed after
checking through 13 columns of small print listing the thousand or so
people figuring in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
I have found people honoured, among many other things, for services to
automobile components, transportation planning, sonar surveying, the
parachute industry, parallel computing, town twinning and understanding
the Holocaust. But, e&oe, I have searched in vain for the legend ‘for
services to public relations’.
This is a pity. And, given the handle to my name, which came up with the
rations when I ‘retired’, I trust that I can note this omission with
regret without being misunderstood.
I do so in full recognition of a number of mitigating factors. First, it
would be unrealistic to expect PR to be recognised every June and New
Year. You cannot build a case for its greater recognition on its absence
from one honours list. Second, a number of public sector colleagues
figured prominently in last weekend’s roll of honour.
Charles Anson, the Queen’s press secretary, became a Commander of the
Royal Victorian Order and Frazer Lindsay, the Forestry Commission’s
former head of information, an OBE. So did Ron Kirby, director of public
affairs at the Engineering Council. And Richard Balharry, promotions
officer at Scottish Natural Heritage, was awarded an MBE. But, like
Messrs Anson, Gee and Lindsay, Mr Kirby and Mr Balharry were not
honoured specifically for their services to PR. They got their gongs for
services to the engineering industry and nature conservation
Which raises a serious question. Does it matter what PR persons are
honoured for, so long as their contribution is recognised? Could it not
even serve PR better if, like Messrs Kirby and Balharry, its
practitioners are seen as an integral part of their industries or
services? And isn’t it just possible that Miss Lyndall Burnham, a
Leicestershire Constabulary telephonist, who got the MBE, has done more
for PR than the lot of us professionals put together, even though her
award merely recognised her service to the police?
The issue is not as simple as it seems. But that does not destroy the
case for specifically recognising outstanding individual contributions
to PR, especially when our trade, craft or profession is striving for a
respectable place in the nation’s affairs. I suspect this is another
example of how PR’s own PR is letting the side down, allowing it, when
honours recommendations come to be considered, to fall down the crack
between journalism and business.