EDITORIAL: Open verdict on communicators

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

of expectations.

A professional qualification providing licences to operate was dismissed

as unworkable.

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.

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