BEST PRACTICE CAMPAIGN: Best Practice beacon - Cutting-edge thinking will shine a light on the future direction of PR, says Maja Pawinska

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.

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

campaign:



- PR budgeting. The valuation of services, budget transparency and

managing expectations, including how PR budgeting works within the

marketing mix.



- 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

sensitive information.



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

further reading.



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

sponsorship.



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

UK.’



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:

best.practice@haynet.com. Updates on the campaign can also be accessed

at www.prweekuk.com.



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

larger organisations.



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.



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