Last week’s FT article Publicity is free with no PRs by Emma Jacobs provoked quite a debate in PR industry circles The article basically dismissed Public Relations practitioners as gatekeepers to the media and called for organisations to communicate directly with journalists.
Whilst there is some truth in the argument that “there are too many bad PR agencies”, there are plenty of good ones out there as well – delivering a lot of jobs and receipts to the Exchequer.
Many executives might be unsure of what external PR people can offer, but they can be invaluable. PLMR, which I founded eight years ago, was privileged to work on the campaign to cut bingo tax. Effective public relations played a vital part in the campaign to get this tax cut in George Osborne’s red briefcase. Result? Good communications delivered millions of pounds for jobs and investment.
Peter Hargreaves said PR professionals can be “bland”, and he’s right: there are a lot of shysters about. Sometimes I’m appalled to see what peers wrongly proscribe as “added value”. Like Mr. Flynn said in his letter to the Editor Too many PR agencies doing a bad job, this industry isn’t rocket science – it’s about delivering a service people want to buy that directly benefits their organisation’s strategic and commercial objectives: advice that impacts the P & L, positive press coverage, crises managed, issues of importance put in the public realm , campaigns won, laws changed, jobs saved, investment delivered. Good PR can help all of this.
When the invoice arrives with a client, the value of PR needs to be obvious. Good PRs know this and are able to grow, just like PLMR is doing. So, if that communications director has ‘no idea what external agencies do for us’ then he’s hired the wrong people and his employers may well in turn ask if they have also made a bad hire.