OP-ED: For the PR industry to grow, it must think and act as one

Within the next few weeks, an unprecedented report will be issued on the subject of restoring trust in America's corporations. The report - the product of 19 organizations representing PR, investor relations, public affairs, and related communications disciplines - offers guidelines for companies on how they can reach out to employees, the public, and other stakeholders.

Within the next few weeks, an unprecedented report will be issued on the subject of restoring trust in America's corporations. The report - the product of 19 organizations representing PR, investor relations, public affairs, and related communications disciplines - offers guidelines for companies on how they can reach out to employees, the public, and other stakeholders.

The report embodies the combined wisdom of nearly 50,000 people that comprise these organizations, which is what makes this report unprecedented. It is a great example of how we as a "whole" can be so much better than each of our "parts" in thinking, in clout, and in what we can accomplish. And we need that so much right now. As competitors, of course, we need to develop and position our own organizations. But there are many opportunities when coming together will benefit the profession, and, therefore, each of our organizations, as well as each of us. Imagine the difference we can make if we unite behind some of those issues we never resolve with a solution: measurement, definition, diversity, education, accreditation, and professional standards. Wouldn't it be great if the industry could get behind one major cause or pro bono effort and use its clout to really make a difference and to show the importance and relevancy of PR? What holds us back? Is it the fragmentation of the industry? A lack of leadership? The inability to identify a unifying goal? All of the "movers and shakers" - in both the corporate and agency worlds - are busy people, especially now as we recover from the still-weak economy. But I assume that's true for most professions. PR, however, rests at a crossroad. Rarely, if ever, has a better opportunity emerged to show that we have every right to occupy an important seat at that Holy Grail - the board table. In organizations around the world, a respectable number of people in our profession have earned that right because they know what to do when they sit there. They're intelligent and inquisitive, good listeners and good counselors, and they're not only the senior talent, but are scattered through all levels of management. If we are going to strengthen the profession and the business of PR, we must participate beyond the day-to-day activities of our paid jobs. We must participate in organizations like the 19-member coalition that prepared the forthcoming report on restoring trust. If the PR industry is to grow in size, structure, and value, we must gather the collective thinking of our smartest people. We need to participate in the educational process by writing and teaching. We need to assist professional organizations in developing countries. For this, we need the involvement of the industry, particularly, our senior leadership, in the professional organizations that make the difference in helping to build our stature, especially as PR develops as a key management discipline around the world. For many of us, one upcoming opportunity is the meeting that ICCO, the international trade organization of PR firms, and PRWeek are sponsoring in Berlin this coming October 16-17. It will bring together the top people in our industry internationally to explore many of the issues we face, professionally and personally, in this most challenging period. Sign up for it. And, if you can't attend this meeting, go to another industry gathering - locally, nationally, or globally - and get involved. Simply put, we're going to grow this industry together - or we're not.
  • David Drobis is senior partner and chairman of Ketchum. He is also president of the Arthur W. Page Society and ICCO.

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