PR is not the same animal it was ten, or even five, years ago. It
may be a relatively young discipline, but it is a rapidly evolving one,
with new specialisms and niches emerging all the time. This should mean
PR is dynamic, responsive to change, eager to learn, ethical, productive
and a contributing factor to the bottom line of industry. But when
things are moving fast, there is little opportunity to take stock of
exactly where the industry lies on a certain issue or technique, how
much things have changed, and where there is room for improvement.
The PR Week Best Practice campaign was launched in June with the aim of
helping PR practitioners to recognise the highest standards, to learn
from each other and related disciplines, and to raise their game to the
level of best practice. Following the inaugural meeting of the steering
group, the agenda for the campaign has now been set.
The campaign steering group is made up of PR Week editor Kate Nicholas;
Diageo chairman Sir Anthony Greener; Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP; CBI
director of international competitiveness Andy Scott; PRCA chairman
Adrian Wheeler; IPR president Philip Dewhurst; John Orme, who has been
seconded from Countrywide Porter Novelli to the DTI’s innovations unit;
and Ogilvy and Mather chairman CEO Paul Simons. It is supported by the
CBI’s Fit for the Future initiative, which aims to create sustainable
improvements in UK productivity by increasing the number of companies
engaged in best practice.
Examples of best practice initiative already under way in the PR
industry will be flagged up in PR Week on an ongoing basis, together
with contact details. The key part of the campaign, however, will be the
publication of a series of guidelines put together by working groups
made up of industry practitioners.
Guidelines for five areas will be published over the coming year. All
have been chosen because they are areas which are evolving and have been
the subject of change in the way they are approached and implemented by
PR practitioners. Each will be applicable to PR people across many
sectors of the industry, and will include relevant input from marketing
services experts and management consultants.
The guides are not ’how to’ prescriptive manuals for junior-level staff
- the Best Practice steering group has no wish to repeat the work
already carried out by the IPR and the PRCA, among others. The
guidelines are rather for senior account directors and in-house
directors, reflecting the latest thought and developments from
practitioners at the cutting edge of each subject area.
The following areas will be looked at in the first phase of the
- PR budgeting. The valuation of services, budget transparency and
managing expectations, including how PR budgeting works within the
- Change management and internal communications. Managing industry
consolidation, including employee and trade union communications,
technology, benchmarking and evaluation.
- Lobbying and public affairs. Best practice post-Drapergate, the Neill
Committee, and increasing free access to monitoring.
- Training. In-house and external; craft, management and technology
training; graduate to senior training plus work placements.
- New media. Managing reputation on the internet, web development,
cyber-marketing, monitoring, legal implications, and handling of
The first work group will meet to examine the area of PR budgeting in
early September. The guides will include essays from industry experts
looking at recent advances in industry practice and management, and how
they impact on best practice in PR. The guides will also include
checklists and contacts directories as well as reference material for
A number of other areas will be looked at after the publication of the
first set of five guides, including community programmes and corporate
philanthropy; issues and crisis management; broadcast PR; and
Steering group member Wheeler says: ’Practical knowledge in PR comprises
not only a large body of tried-and-tested methodologies, but also an
evolving assortment of new mechanisms and adaptations. Best practice
means having full command of a complete range of proven techniques while
being constantly alert to new and original ideas.
’This series addresses both needs and will be valuable to learners and
seasoned practitioners alike,’ he adds. ’By combining the best thinking
from consultancies, from the academic field and from the in-house
sector, the guides will give clients and consultants a unique
perspective on what’s most intelligent, most imaginative and most
efficient in PR. It’s another excellent example of what can be achieved
when the PR community joins forces. It’s also a first for PR in the
PR Week readers are invited to provide feedback and ideas for the guides
and the campaign as a whole by writing to the dedicated e-mail address:
firstname.lastname@example.org. Updates on the campaign can also be accessed
The guidelines for the PR industry, which will be distributed through
the IPR and the PRCA, will form the first phase of the project. The next
step will be to use them as the basis for guides aimed at clients, to
help combat confusion and negative perceptions of PR among SMEs and
Among the areas to be covered by these plain-English, client-facing
guides will be PR budgets, employee communications, dealings with
regulators and government, reputation management on the internet, and
the kind of skills and activities which can be supplied by a consultant
or an agency to meet a particular need.
’PR and marketing will benefit from this campaign if the people who want
the use of their services are better educated as to how PR can help
them. We need to put ourselves in the position of unsophisticated
clients, asking what we can tell them to help them get the most of our
services,’ says Sir Anthony Greener of the steering group.
There is still a lot of work to be done to increase best practice in the
PR industry before it is ready to turn the spotlight on itself. PR Week,
the IPR and the PRCA are committed to the Best Practice campaign for the
long haul. It’s an ambitious initiative which will continue into the
next millennium, and will help shape the attitudes of PR practitioners
and clients well after the project comes to a close.