PR people are too ‘narrowly focused’ and lack the ‘broad vision and
experience’ needed to secure a place on the board, United Biscuits
managing director Gordon Hourston told last week’s IPR conference.
Chairing a panel debate entitled ‘What do chief executives want from
their communication advisers?’ Hourston said that, unlike PR
professionals, most CEOs have a broad range of business experience which
helps them rise to the company boardroom.
Hourston’s views were backed by Victoria Provis of Odgers Management
Consultants who told the conference that it is rare to find a CEO who is
willing to put a PR person on the board.
‘They are looking for an extra something, such as a business background
or MBA,’ said Provis.
Unlike other panel members Inchcape group corporate affairs director
Paul Barber felt PR executives should not be on the board but operate as
an ‘independent adviser’ to allow them to objectively question the
Fishburn Hedges MD John Williams complained that although there is an
increasing recognition of the importance of good communications, PR is
still seen to be ‘below stairs’.
IPR President Rosemary Brook asked Hourston why CEO’s did not seek
advice from their PR people earlier in the decision making process.
‘Members of boards have had some success in some area of communications
so they think they can do it,’ replied Hourston. ‘We’re arrogant, we
think we know all the answers.’