NEWS: Improving PR’s image has now become a matter of honours

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.

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

respectively.



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.



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