EDITORIAL: Legacy needed for pro bono PR

The PR profession has many heart-warming but largely unsung stories to tell about pro bono PR. Sometimes the work is humdrum, menial PR work; on other occasions it is brilliant.

The PR profession has many heart-warming but largely unsung stories to tell about pro bono PR. Sometimes the work is humdrum, menial PR work; on other occasions it is brilliant.

The PR profession has many heart-warming but largely unsung stories to tell about pro bono PR. Sometimes the work is humdrum, menial PR work; on other occasions it is brilliant.

It was in an effort to show that the industry 'has a heart' - and also to show the power of PR - that the Council of PR Firms started to investigate the establishment of a PR equivalent to the Ad Council. Set up by the government in the 1940s to raise support for the War effort, this organization has spawned some of the most memorable ad campaigns of all time, including, of course, 'Smokey the Bear.'

Depending on who you talk to at the Council of PR firms, that idea was either rejected, or is still under discussion. Whatever, it is a non-starter.

The Ad Council was set up by government mandate. Trying to organize a self-regulating version (with the usual limited resources) is a recipe for disaster. But the key to the success of the Ad Council's work was the fact that PSAs are genuinely free media; whereas journalists will not 'donate' editorial space whatever the cause.

In our pro bono feature ('Brother, can you spare some time?' on page 14), Bergen says the Council is now pursuing a series of seminars whereby practitioners from member firms teach non-profits how to handle PR. This will not create a lasting legacy, however, and that would be a shame.

One option is to create an annual award which recognizes the best pro bono contributions. Another is to create a body of knowledge so that those who wish to give time and resource can discover best practice and overcome the considerable pitfalls described in our article. Even better, combine them both.



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