The relevance and significance of the Council of Public Relations Firms is growing, in spite of its critics.
As of December 1, the Council welcomes a new chairperson, Porter Novelli CEO Helen Ostrowski, who takes over from Harris Diamond of Weber Shandwick, making this a good time to review and also look ahead.
In a year that has seen many aspects of the industry under scrutiny from mainstream media and legislators, the Council's focus on its core function - that of helping agencies run better businesses - should be commended rather than derided.
Though an understandable and valid target for criticism for its early responses to the Armstrong Williams issue, the Council's follow-up discourse stressed building trust through transparency and evincing a sense of pride in the industry. While some have wanted the Council to be a more vocal presence in the industry, others have seen the value of restraint, pointing to the leadership as the driving force.
"The Council demonstrated its purpose in identifying and understanding these explosive issues," says Carmichael Lynch Spong CEO Doug Spong, a founding member of the Council. "If ever there was a year for Harris to be chair, this was it," he adds, citing Diamond's training as an attorney and experience at the head of WS as important factors that contributed to the organization's response.
"We didn't underestimate or overreact to any of these issues," Spong says. "We had the professional maturity and the restraint to know when, how, and if to respond - and that restraint has served us well."
Of course, not everyone will agree (the address is firstname.lastname@example.org). But even if there is disagreement on the advocacy role of the organization, strengthening agency management continues to be its core mission.
In the area of thought leadership, Council events are consistently offering quality speakers on topics that go to the heart of the agency business. The group also launched a series of 13 regional breakfast roundtables this year to identify regional issues and opinions more consistently.
There is much more the Council can do. There are plenty of people who want it to better than it is. But so much has changed over the past few years in this industry that it is easy to forget that the Council is only about seven years old. Ostrowski takes over with a reputation for being deeply involved in the Council's growth and development. She is committed to what many consider to be the number-one issue for the profession - that of cultivating and attracting talent consistently. An ongoing commitment to leadership and focus on critical issues will help the Council and its mission.
Schneiders brings change to PRWeek's pages
A new face appears in the column on the opposite page. Greg Schneiders, who is a founding partner of Prime Group, began his career in research and communications with President Jimmy Carter, and has worked both in politics, and on the agency side as head of Weber Shandwick's research division. His column will focus on issues of corporate change, and he will evaluate a different industry each month. As a new voice to PRWeek, he brings an authoritative and informed perspective.