A recent article in the FT, Publicity is Free with No PRs (7th April) paints an image of the PR industry that is unrecognisable to me and to the members of the PRCA.
The article describes companies which have chosen to have a limited or even non-existent press or PR department, and which do not hire external agencies. Instead, the CEOs of these firms choose to communicate with journalists directly. The article cites Warren Buffett, who communicates with shareholders in an annual meeting in which he explains his yearly letter to them.
The article quotes one unnamed communications director of a listed European technology company:
The majority of PR professionals he meets do little apart from "add corporate-speak". Such experts, he says, drum into executives the notion that they must espouse "an anodyne, flat colourless message". The greatest waste of money tends to happen when responsibility for public relations is dumped on a junior executive who is "neither empowered nor capable of thinking for themselves".
While it is entirely possible that press calls can be handled by company executives rather than PR people - in fact, many PR teams or agencies may recommend such a course - this utterly downplays the far more wide-reaching role that PR and corporate communications plays in business today.
PR in today's world acts to help change the way companies operate, not just how they communicate. PR at its best acts as the corporate conscience, pushing companies in the right direction and guiding them in the light of public opinion.
And while the annual meeting with shareholders might work for Warren Buffett, most companies will not be so blessed with such a high profile CEO, and will need to use other means to gain recognition for their brand.
The article also completely ignores the huge bank of creativity at the disposal of both agencies and in-house teams; creativity to help companies position themselves in new and fascinating ways.
None of that should go against the enormous talents that already exist within companies - from the CEO downwards - which should also be at the disposal of the PR effort. But the key is that a skilled PR team can help to hone and use those talents to their best effect.
And on the issue of corporate-speak - the PR's role should be to eliminate it, not to produce it.
If they're doing that, I suggest you fire them.Suggest a correction