The Communication Directors' Forum got more than it bargained for
with the presentation of research on the future role of PR chiefs. What
had appeared to be an uninspiring jog through the regular gripes of
comms heads - lack of credibility, lack of access to management and lack
of strategic input - came alive as it met with a furious response.
According to those behind this report - OLR, Fresh and Echo Research -
there is a perception among the business community that communications
is easy; 'that all you need is to be amiable and vaguely literate,' as
one focus group participant put it.
The researchers agreed that most senior managers - in finance, HR, legal
affairs or commercial development - believe that they communicate
This confidence acts to devalue the currency of the communications
And yet the solutions proposed by the groups - and, contrary to
speculation on the Oriana, they were a distinguished bunch - fell short
A professional qualification providing licences to operate was dismissed
The claim that the job title was the cause of the problem led to some
creative suggestions as to how it might be modified. One was 'director
of corporate reputation', which would more accurately reflect the task
in hand. And yet it was swiftly pointed out that unless there is change
in the quality of the role, cosmetically changing the title is at best
irrelevant and, at worst, a distraction. In short, a classically
short-termist PR solution.
The answer, as those who questioned the Forum's assessment doubtless
know from experience, is for communicators - all of them, not just the
half-dozen current stars - to prove their value to management. We can
then look forward to a more upbeat assessment on next year's cruise.