With his avowedly mischievous streak, Lewis PR founder Chris Lewis
will have relished the brouhaha kicked up by his column in The Financial
Times this week. For those who missed it - and judging by the noisy
response of industry figures, they are few - Lewis was scathing: 'My
first thought on discovering the existence of the IPR was to wonder how
so many of these scatterbrained and champagne-dependent luvvies had got
it together to form an institute in the first place.'
Despite the bile of his attack, Lewis made valid points. He is right to
point out that the PR industry is held in generally low public esteem
and that, in part, the blame for this must be laid at the door of the
IPR and PRCA. Both fail to capture media attention enough to become a
default mouthpiece for the industry. The fact that The Marketing Society
is to be addressed by Max Clifford at its Christmas lunch is evidence
enough of this - Clifford is good at what he does but he is not
representative of the industry.
It also bears stating that, despite the furious response of the industry
bodies' leaders this week, internal debate among practitioners is a
crucial hallmark of a confident industry.
But to suggest that both bodies do more harm than good is hard to stand
up if you have never been a member of either, nor ever sought to
By contrast, and despite the collegiate and friendly intra-industry
atmosphere promoted by both the IPR and the PRCA, one line in the Lewis
diatribe seems easy to support - his claim that there is 'no industry
more bitchy and back-biting' than PR. This is especially so for those,
such as Lewis, prepared to wash PR's dirty linen in public. When that
public is FT readers - the European business community on whose goodwill
the PR world is dependent for future success - it is plain that Lewis
has done the industry no favours.