Forget diversity in PR for a moment and let's talk about character

As more and more statistics and evidence of the benefits of an inclusive workforce at the highest levels of management emerge, you'd be hard pushed to uphold an argument for maintaining the outdated archetypal senior PR team in today's era.

What we do is of far more importance that what we say we do, argues Jessica Huie
What we do is of far more importance that what we say we do, argues Jessica Huie
Only the most stubborn or ignorant would argue against bringing cross-culturalism that spans sex, race and class up the realms of the PR food chain in order to better cater to the needs of today’s clientele. 

The conversations about diversity are taking place and there appears to be progressive movement toward change. So now let's talk about character. 

Generation K (named after Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games) distrust major organisations and their motives but reward the brands with a social conscience, by becoming unofficial ambassadors and dedicated supporters, says economist Noreena Hertz. 

This tells us that ethics and righteous morals matter to the new generation of consumer – but a dedication to doing the right thing needs to go beyond ad hoc charity support for this savvy audience.

Business relationships are about resonance, particularly in public relations where we become the voice of our clientele and need to immerse ourselves in their values and understand their objectives at a critical level. 

The better we can understand our clients, the better we can serve them, and for those agencies catering to caring Generation K, a commitment to integrity should underpin our dialogue and actions.

From the way we treat our staff and co-workers to the journalists and stakeholders we interact with, operating at our highest level of consciousness requires individuals of moral fortitude to wash away yesterday’s tarnished PR industry reputation for spin doctoring. 

PR is powerful at every level, from its ability to supercharge a charity campaign to the role it plays in influencing government. Contributing more than £9bn to the British economy and with more than 62,000 employees, our role in creating the news agenda has never been more critical. 

Wouldn’t it be remarkable if we leveraged that responsibility to benefit not just company profits but society as a whole?

Yes, there will be lapses in the consistency of actions and commitment to wholesome values that integrity requires – we are human after all – but a dedication to returning to an ethical position will safeguard our industry for the future, in a way that short-term wins never can.

The measure of a good publicist used to be their black book. I’d argue that today it's about how willing they are to walk away from that financially tempting but murky client or mislead their strongest press contacts in pursuit of career advancement. 

Yes, our role is that of reputational adviser. But if Generation K are becoming the new client, then perhaps it's time we sat back, listened and learned in order to retain their business and operate in a manner more appropriate to a fast-changing world where what we actually do is of far more importance that what we say we do.

Here’s to PR for good. Literally.

Jessica Huie is the founder of JH Public Relations

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