Public sector may be stressful but it's the best place to hone your PR skills

Last week’s PR Week argued that public sector PROs are undervalued, under-resourced and under pressure. I thought this was rather a negative spin on what in my view is the most difficult job in the profession.

Feeling undervalued is something that surely all PR people just have to live with. PR is like HR – virtually everyone in the organisation from the chief executive down thinks they could do it better than you if only they had the time. Until that is the big crisis breaks and then suddenly you're worth your weight in gold.

It's true that many PR teams in councils are hopelessly under-resourced. I still come across district councils in particular who have no-one working on PR or rely on the efforts of someone who has a full time job doing something else in the council. But there are an increasing number of councils at the other end of the scale who now have big PR budgets and run campaigns that would be the envy of their private sector counterparts.

I think the key difference to working in the public sector is politics, and this is something that private sector colleagues often don't understand. I've seen many highly experienced private sector communications directors fall foul of national or local politics when they make the switch to the public sector.

I recently advised someone who was facing a major public sector re-organisation of their service due to be announced at a private meeting with ministers and couldn't believe the vicious pre-briefing that went on in the preceding weekend's media. You could say this was naïve but the impact of politics on your ability to do the job has to be seen to be believed. There is an edge to working in such an intensely political environment. It is stressful it's true, but it's also some of the best training you can get to hone your PR skills.

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