ANALYSIS: BIG QUESTION; Should PR people be a company’s mouthpiece or its conscience?

Last week Des Wilson of BAA urged PRs to take the moral high ground

Last week Des Wilson of BAA urged PRs to take the moral high ground

Colette Graham Glaxo Wellcome

‘I suspect that every in-house communicator would rather be perceived as

the guardian angel of corporate reputation than the company Fireman Sam.

Making it happen is about timing and credibility. The communicator must

have access to corporate decision-making early enough to inform and

influence effectively. Equally, he or she must combine specialist

expertise with a profound understanding of the business the company is


Roger Hayes British Nuclear Industry Forum

‘The PR person is the conscience of the organisation so the role of this

person, whether spokesman or not, is to feed back to top management what

the stakeholders are saying about the organisation, what their attitudes

are and what values they hold. This needs to be done at the outset,

before decisions are made. The PR person should be involved at a

strategic level.’

Nick Cobban Barclays UK

‘There is no justification for anyone in PR to be merely a mouthpiece

reciting the company line. It’s vital for in-house PR people in

particular to be conscious of their organisation - to place themselves

in the position of the customer or the journalist - criticise policies,

ask difficult questions and draw attention to traps which may lie ahead.

They may not always be popular for expressing their concerns but it’s an

essential part of the job.’

Alexis Coles Thomas Cook’

‘The role of good PR is always to challenge management on social issues

when the company does not practice what it preaches. I would never

recommend to my managing board that we carry out any initiatives where

we could not show real substance and evidence of our commitment. Take

the environment. Everyone wants to be green, but the communicator should

make sure there are no skeletons in the closet before the organisation

starts taking a high profile on the issue.’

John Wybrew British Gas

‘The management of a company’s external relations and related

communications have become central to the management of the enterprise.

In this situation, the role of the communications professional is not

primarily to represent the company, but to ensure the effectiveness,

professionalism and integrity of the company’s total communications

effort, and the mission is to explain and to listen.’

The Big Question is edited by Lexie Goddard

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