There is, from time to time, a certain chippiness in the relations
between the PR industry and advertising. Not only does advertising have
bigger budgets, greater professional recognition and more credible
measurement techniques, it also, dare I say it, seems to handle its PR
A good example of this occurred on Monday 14 December at the Houses of
Parliament when the ubiquitous Austin Mitchell MP took the chair at the
inaugural meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on
With a cross-party clutch of vice-chairs (Graham Brady MP, Nigel Evans
MP and Jane Griffiths MP) giving credibility to a very well attended
meeting of parliamentarians from both Houses, the advertising industry
has, at a stroke, given itself entirely legitimate access to political
decision-makers and influencers.
The Advertising Association is offering secretarial and logistical
support to the all-party group. Which makes one wonder why the PRCA has
not considered a similar initiative. The industry has far wider
interests and expertise than those covered by the debate about lobbying
- important as this is.
The Institute of Public Relations, under its new president Alison Clarke
will be giving increased importance to making sure that the industry
contributes positively to developing a proper regulatory framework for
the practice of PR. At the same time continuous professional development
(CPD) is rightly given priority to underpin the professional credibility
of the PR offer.
Best of all these major initiatives, regulatory and CPD, are being
followed through with close cooperation between the IPR and the PRCA.
There is a chance, therefore, of being able to present to
parliamentarians a united PR industry front, something all too often
lacking in the past.
An all-party group would be able to hear presentations on the
professional issues facing the industry as well as receiving PR
perspectives on European issues, North American experiences and moral
dilemmas such as working for foreign governments with difficult
The PR perspective of sanctions already facing the advertising industry,
such as a ban on tobacco advertising, could be discussed. From such a
base, and with such a programme there would be a very real chance of
improving Parliamentary understanding of PR.
A couple of weeks ago, in Parliament’s own trade paper, the House
Magazine, I wrote in praise of the PR Week Awards and the array of
talent and professional commitment it represents. But far too few
parliamentarians know about the positive side of the business.
The industry needs to explain itself to an audience whose awareness is
all too often linked to the antics of Max Clifford or stories about
brown paper envelopes. It is important that public relations should not
be seen only in terms of sleaze or sensation-seeking publicists.
An all-party group on public relations could launch a real educational
effort to make sure that legislators understand what public relations is
about and are aware of the views of PR professionals about issues of
Too often, PR seems to be on the back foot in its relations with
Instead, it should be on a mission to explain. Not for the first time
the advertising industry has taken the lead, but we should not be afraid
to imitate where the idea is a good one.
The need is there, the parliamentary interest is there, and I am sure we
could find a chairman and officers from the large number of MPs who have
earned an honest crust in PR at one time or another.