Ask anyone outside our industry what they know about PR, and I bet their most likely answer will include Max Clifford’s name.
Ask pretty much anyone within our industry what they think of him, and they’ll say (correctly) that he’s a publicist, not a PR person. This is not a great position.
Now, we need to be honest here. We’re partly to blame for this state of affairs. We have spent more time berating him, and fuming about how he’s not part of our community, than we have in putting forward alternative visions of who it is that actually does speak for PR.
Twenty years ago, the PRCA led a debate in which our then-chairman took him on – it’s fair to say we lost. In 2012, the CIPR invited him to give the keynote at its northern conference.
He was, by all accounts, on sparkling form. So both of our industry’s trade associations have failed at various points in our respective histories, too.
We need to do more to change the public perception of PR than just to say it isn’t all – or by any means, even mainly – celebrity fluff. We need to prove how it has value: how it moves share price; determines how much people support charities; and how happy they are with institutions of government at every level.
Because once we’ve done that, journalists will look for an entirely new type of spokesman for our industry.
So that’s why the PRCA can announce three key initiatives.
- We are going to create a Speakers’ Panel of practitioners, willing and able to speak on behalf of the PR industry, whose details we will push actively whenever the media are looking for a spokesperson for our industry.
- We will collate a library of case studies showing the positive things our industry has done, and then highlight individual ones on a regular basis. So if you have campaigns you’d like highlighted, do let us know.
- Through our management of the Government’s PR Apprenticeship Programme, we will redouble our outreach to schools, making clear the reality of PR.
Now, none of this will work wonders overnight. And we invite other representative bodies to join us. But it’s absolutely central to the future of our industry. And we are determined to make it work.
Francis Ingham is PRCA director-general and ICCO executive director