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Bell Pottinger’s David Wilson suggests three resolutions the PR industry should make in 2013

8th January 2013

Last year provided incredible highs and lows, 2012 hit both extremes for many reasons. The intrusion of long lenses, the ethical behaviour of our national newspapers, Leveson, and the continued leaning towards latest digital solutions all brought the media industry into sharp focus. These issues had a massive impact on a reporting, with salacious headlines giving way to acres of good news coverage – not least the Queen‘s Jubilee, the magnificent London Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the more recent announcement of an impending Royal addition. Good news apparently CAN sell newspapers!

But how does this refocusing of the media impact on our public relations industry? And more, as we enter the dawn of a new year, what resolutions should we begin to put in place? Three ideas to consider.

1. No more spin

First up, let’s remove a rubbish word that’s too often associated with public relations – a simple one-word descriptor that portrays our industry, simply, as “spin’” Am I alone in loathing the suggestion that we are “spin doctors“? The font of modern knowledge, Wikipedia, suggests:

"spin is a form of propaganda, achieved through providing an interpretation of an event or campaign to persuade public opinion in favor or against a certain organisation or public figure. While traditional public relations may also rely on creative presentation of the facts, "spin" often, though not always, implies disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics."

2. Use common sense

Disingenuous, deceptive or worse, deceitful? Lying has no place in our armoury. Manipulative? Please. We present facts and storylines that address inquisition or will interest consumers, investors, politicos, regulators and other stakeholders who may either purchase or influence the purchasing ability of a product. New Year resolution one – eradicate the association of spin from public relations. It has no place.

Next, the “law of savvy“. Referring again to Wiki, we’re guided toward common sense when searching savvy:

"sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts. Thus, "common sense" (in this view) equates to the knowledge and experience which most people already have, or which the person using the term believes that they do or should have. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as, "the basic level of practical knowledge and judgment that we all need to help us live in a reasonable and safe way". sav·vi·ness. 

Many components are required to make a truly, great PR professional. Training and qualifications play their part, but so does an important mix of news-sense, an ability to construct and communicate a story, and great media contacts to get your story run.

But there’s one additional thing that us PR folk and clients alike must have – and that’s simple nous. Many fail to ask the question: “How will others react to this”; when saying something or acting in a way that really won’t do well when given the ‘court of public opinion’ litmus test. So my new “law of savvy” will make people think twice, allowing brain to engage voice-box. It will also open the door to a raft of training courses, with the pure and simple coaching message – “why you shouldn’t be so bloody silly!” With the law of savvy, we’ll all prosper.

3. Be positive

And thirdly, the “law for cup half full“. Didn’t 2012 tell us all very many things, not least that with positive thinking, we Brits can achieve anything we set our minds to? Despite the scare stories and the sceptics warning to the contrary, the once-in-a-lifetime summer of sport was an overwhelming triumph. And clearly the magnificent Chelsea victory in the Champions League led the way! That aside, the Olympics and Paralympics captured imagination. And they, together with the year’s other positive tales relegated negativity down the news agenda. Wasn’t that a joy to see?

So let’s rid the British media culture of “building them up to knock them down” and looking at things with a cup-half-empty approach. British consumers want more balance in reporting? Am I alone in being bored by unnecessary analysis, counter analysis and re-analysis of the same old problems? So let’s introduce a new cup-half-full strategy for the PR industry, with the onus on us to uncover and convey good news stories that are simply impossible for mainstream media to ignore. Good news rocks. We’ll replace media sneers with consumer smiles. I can wish.

Here endeth the new lesson for 2013. Have a great year.

David Wilson is the group managing director of Bell Pottinger

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