Chance for PR to shine in a crisis

We are in uncharted territory. Waking up on a Monday morning to headlines that Britain's banks are being nationalised is something to tell the grandchildren.

This brings unprecedented challenges for the PR industry but it also brings a unique opportunity.

The credit crunch will not be over in a week or two. We are in for a long haul. The ripples of this crisis will spread far beyond the City or New York's banking district, reaching into all of our lives wherever we live.

Exaggeration, spin and self-interest will just fuel uncertainty and make the situation worse. People want simple explanations: What does this mean for me? Will my savings be safe? What will happen to my pension? What will happen to the services of local councils that have their deposits frozen?

This is a chance to reclaim PR from the image, peddled by people such as (Flat Earth News author) Nick Davies, that we are guilty of 'manipulative behaviour'.

Last month, news that Ofsted was spending money on PR generated media outrage. The CIPR's president, Lis Lewis-Jones, fought back. 'PR, especially within the public sector, provides two-way communication for the public benefit,' she told The Times.

'PR is about putting information in the public domain and a lot of that information, especially in the public sector, is key information about improving health, welfare and society,' she went on. Or, she could have added this week, about savings, mortgages, pensions, local council services.

The challenge is the same for PROs in the public and private sector. But the pressures are different. It is not going to be easy for those people in financial PR, in particular in the banks.

And while we are on about the banks, one former public sector PRO must be shaking his head about his recent career choice. Howell James stepped down as permanent secretary, government communication to take up a senior position with Barclays just a few weeks before the credit crunch bit. That was one hell of a career move.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in