We don't want to be loved, what we need and deserve is a little respect

The morning after the PRCA national awards, Stephen Waddington and I spoke together at an event hosted by The Crowd And I. Entitled #Future PR, it discussed the industry's response to criticism of our trade. We were asked for our thoughts on The Independent's Ian Burrell's sweeping ­assertion that the past 12 months had been "a PR disaster for PR". Not surprisingly, we both rejected that view, and with some enthusiasm.

Francis Ingham: PRCA director-general and ICCO executive director
Francis Ingham: PRCA director-general and ICCO executive director

In the course of that rejection, the usual introspection to which our industry is predisposed came out. Why can’t we be more like ­lawyers and accountants? When will we finally be a profession? Why did we allow Max Clifford to be the face of PR? The usual ephemera.

And it struck me that all of those things are utterly missing the point. PR is an incredible UK success story. Via the PRCA’s management of ICCO, I meet PR practitioners from around the world.

They look to the UK PR community as a global hub of PR excellence. They don’t want to be ‘a profession’. They want to be professional; well-remunerated and respected. The final word is the key. Respected.

Ours is a growing, vibrant industry. From speaking with agency and in-house heads up and down the country, a renewed sense of ­optimism is palpable. Our industry is recruiting strongly, looking for the best of talent, turning decent profits and exerting greater influence. Yet there still remains hesitancy – an uncertainty about our value. And that hesitancy stems from a fundamental weakness.

Our ­industry contains too many people who want to be loved.

So we don’t issue the level of invoice we should; we accept the ­decisions made by others rather than making them ourselves in the first place. We obsess about achieving the ‘profession’ status. Instead, we should aim to be respected. It means we prove the value of what we do, charge accordingly, and have confidence in our worth.

If we’re to do that we need to get a few things sorted. We need to put together tangible, measurable examples of the difference effective PR makes (and the flipside  – the damage the lack of effective reputation management inflicts). And those examples need to cover all parts of our industry – the effect on listed companies’ share prices; on charities’ endeavours; on public sector awareness campaigns.

And then we need to beat the drum for our industry. I am not naïve enough to think that PR will ever be loved. And out of love or respect, I’d always choose respect – it’s a little less fickle.

Francis Ingham is PRCA director-general and ICCO executive director

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