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There needs to be less insecure navel gazing in PR and more getting on with great work

Was ever an industry more prone to self-doubt and navel gazing than PR?

I for one am sick of the introspective insecurity that lies behind so many articles and speeches bashing our industry. And the irony is that we have enough detractors as it is –we ourselves don’t need to add to their number. We should instead be proud of what we do.

I’m not a great conference attender (though obviously the PRCA and PR Moment ones are fantastic value and highly engaging….), but I do receive invitations to a heck of a lot. And I do see people’s tweets publicising their own erudite and insightful comments at such events. So, so many are negative. PR is dead. The future belongs to other disciplines. We’re not diverse enough. We simply can’t evaluate. PR will never triumph at Cannes. Ethics is an alien concept. Yack yack yack.

I see these descriptions of our industry, and they paint a picture that I just don’t recognise.

Oh and the utter, fishy red herring that is the obsession some have with PR being a ‘profession’ rather than an ‘industry’. Yes guys –let’s devote time, resource and (some) brainpower to hammering on and on and on about a word which has no meaning. Professional? Absolutely yes. ‘Profession’? Let it go –this isn’t the 1950s……

So let’s be clear. PR isn’t perfect. And it’s never going to be. It has plenty of problems. But that is true of absolutely *every* industry.   

PR is, though, an industry that’s going in the right direction. Well-paid people, becoming even better paid. Vibrant and eating more and more of other marketing disciplines. Fleet of foot, and able to innovate rapidly. A genuine world-leader, exporting UK expertise around the globe. Attracting a broader and broader range of people, regardless of background. An industry where if you are talented and prepared to work hard, you can achieve pretty much whatever you want.

Now that doesn’t sound to me like an industry that should be beating itself up.
There’s always one common thread to such introspective speeches. They’re from people who are approaching the end of their careers; or who have reached that point already. They’re not from the guys starting out in PR. Or from the people running growing businesses.

Next week, we’ll have the PRCA Boat Party. It’ll be three hundred people sailing up the Thames. They’ll be overwhelmingly young people, though with a few oldies like me thrown in. And not one person there will be bleating about the imminent demise of PR. They’ll be excited and positive. And those people represent the future of our industry.

So what should we do instead?

Well here are a few radical suggestions:

  • Stop looking inwards, and start looking outwards. Talk less about how we can improve our industry, and more about how our industry’s expertise can improve others.
  • Accept that we don’t need to be loved in order to be successful. PR people will *never* be loved. And it matters not one iota.
  • Showcase our work not just at awards season, but also throughout the year. Having judged hundreds, possibly thousands of awards in the UK and abroad, I am so often struck by how badly we explain our successes. It’s an afterthought. That needs to change.
  • Stop beating ourselves up, and try getting down to just doing great work instead
  • And maybe, just maybe, those of us who put on conferences, commission articles, or purport to provide ‘thought leadership’ to our industry could do this. We could stop giving platforms to people who use them only to decry our industry. Maybe just for a couple of months? Maybe we could replace those doomsayers with some of the bright young things who’ll be going up the Thames, rightly convinced that they work in a brilliant, fun, rewarding industry.

Or of course, we could just revert to type and depress ourselves and everyone around us. But as plans go, that rather sucks now doesn’t it?

Written by Francis Ingham, Director General, PRCA & Chief Executive, ICCO


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