Who has the lousiest job in PR? I only ask because I’ve been
studying the 26 winners of PR Week’s awards. At one stage during Nato’s
Kosovo campaign, it looked as if Jamie Shea might qualify for the title.
Instead, he became European Communicator of the Year, which suggests
that his Brussels berth isn’t all that impossible. My sympathies
normally go to local authority PROs, since they all too often have to
put up with political tin gods who have little concept of the need for
taxpayer-funded publicity to be impartial and unpolemical. But then Ben
Wilson won the Young Achiever of the Year Award with Brighton and Hove
The Government Information and Communication Service and child minders
have much in common, since ministers and little kids need just about the
same amount of attention, if only to prevent them from hurting
The GICS has taken a severe battering from a Government which manifestly
does not understand the limits within which its members must work. But
then the COI ran off with the Best Crisis Management Award, coping with
Swampy and assorted moles and tree dwellers swarming in the way of new
But I reckon there is one class of PRO whose struggle against adversity
deserves recognition. They are those who work for privatised utilities,
especially as John Prescott thinks he can boss them around as if they
were still nationalised. Why doesn’t somebody tell him to buzz off, or
words to that effect? They are, after all, already second-guessed by
regulators who never hesitate to jump on a popular bandwagon.
The water companies are vilified, even though their investment programme
is probably Europe’s largest environmental improvement project - and the
quality of UK drinking water is only a few percentage points short of
100 per cent purity. Railtrack is treated by ministers, press and public
alike as if it were the devil incarnate, cutting safety to boost
This ignores inconvenient facts, such as Railtrack’s massive investment
to make up for nationalised neglect, the fact that rail travel is just
about the safest way of getting about, and that it’s not Railtrack which
keeps going through red lights - it’s other rail companies’ drivers.
But the real killer is the sheer, ignorant prejudice against Railtrack’s
profits. Like the water companies, Railtrack needs to be profitable to
continue investing. Outrage over its pounds 1-million-a-day profits is
meaningless emotion without relating them to turnover and capital
employed. Privatised utilities are very big businesses. They are also
where you currently find the lousiest jobs in PR, since the PROs don’t,
to make matters worse, seem to have many sensible communicators among
top managers to work with.
In your charitable moments, spare a thought for our brethren toiling in
these sour vineyards.