NEWS: Plain speaking should be enough to prove the PR industry’s worth

Let me first declare my interest. Craig Brown, the columnist who wrote a satirical ‘cut-out-and-keep A-Z of PR speak’ in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph, once described me as ‘loopy looking, like one of the background soldiers in Dad’s Army, his hair a peculiar red like an anaemic carrot’.

Let me first declare my interest. Craig Brown, the columnist who wrote

a satirical ‘cut-out-and-keep A-Z of PR speak’ in Saturday’s Daily

Telegraph, once described me as ‘loopy looking, like one of the

background soldiers in Dad’s Army, his hair a peculiar red like an

anaemic carrot’.



Mr Brown, I should record, looks like Dylan Thomas pulled through a

hedge backwards after a bad night. Curiously, his wife only laughed when

she asked me to confirm that this was how I had described her beloved.

Mr Brown and I bring out the best in each other.



Sadly, I thought his Telegraph piece was superficial. He evidently

misspent his youth among Hollywood press agents. And he seemed to have

heard of only four British PROs - CLIFFORD, Max; BELL, Sir Tim; LIZ

Brewer (who may be confused with BREWER, Liz); and MANDELSON, Peter, who

probably wishes to be described as an ex-PRO now that he is in the

Government-in-waiting. It is not yet clear whether Messrs Bell and

Mandelson and Ms Brewer are suing for exemplary damages for being linked

with Mr Clifford. But I thought the sub-editor managed to invest Mr

Brown’s article with some substance when he wrote: ‘Is PR a Good Thing?

Measure its effectiveness by the esteem in which the profession is

held’. Let us leave aside the well-documented fact that journalists vie

with politicians for the wooden spoon in the league table of

professional standing. Let us also ignore that disease which is endemic

among Mr Brown’s tribe - journalistic licence - and its other vices such

as invention, massage, simplification, trivialisation and

sensationalism.



Instead, let us recognise that Mr Brown may have a point. Over my 23

years in it, I came to argue that the Government Information Service had

probably been least effective in its internal PR - in winning

understanding, authority and status from both ministers and civil

servants. Labour ministers usually wanted to bring in a friendly

journalist and Tories either a PR pal or their pet administrator. The

fact that none of them knew much about the Government PR game was

usually neither here nor there.



So far as I can see, private sector bosses tend to accumulate PR

companies rather like politicians keep joke books. They use them as and

when they serve their purpose. We shouldn’t grumble. The fees look good

in the balance sheet. But until we devise some proven, scientific

predictor and validator of our effectiveness, shouldn’t we become known

for our plain speaking. We can’t turn water into wine. But we do give

good advice and expect it to be followed.



Mr Brown wouldn’t have much fun with that kind of a profession - unless,

of course, we gave bad advice.



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