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What is the Role of PR in a Burning World?

This article was originally published as part of PRmoment's Impact Report.

What should PR people do in a world that is rapidly waking up to the realities of global warming? If the stark warnings of the recent IPCC report on climate change are to be understood and acted upon, there is a huge amount of work to do. As always, communicators must do much more than just that. We must lead the change we want to see, influence the leaders who are capable of delivering, and bring the facts to those who otherwise would not have access.

The IPCC report (from the world body responsible for assessing and reporting on the state of climate change) basically said society will have to change wholesale in order for humanity—as we know it—to survive the next century.

So what role can the PR profession play in answering this existential challenge? It’s time to dig deep and ask ourselves the old, old questions:

Do we lead, or do we really follow?

How often do we really project our own values, those of our profession and those of the audiences we represent in the making of strategic decisions? How often do we request a different approach, or drive for change from within the places where we work?

Are we brave enough to speak truth to power?

Do we respectfully, but repeatedly, point out the need for change, of direction, of behaviours and of the beliefs that make the difference between realising the values of the organisations we work for and passing them off as greenwash?

What happens when power doesn’t, or just can’t, listen?

Do we let it go? Or do we make the case, bring in professional and evidential support, and help our leaders know that the direction we are lobbying for is not just OK, but the right thing to do?

And what about ESG in a burning world?

Surely it’s more vital than ever to focus on creating and sustaining a just society, but doing this will require stronger, more open, more enlightened leadership than ever; from the PR industry, from leaders in every industry and from society, from every single member of the human race.

We are part of a complex system that is changing slowly to meet tomorrow’s needs. We will have to embrace discomfort with societal change, more than ever, to ensure that climate and ecological change don’t outmanoeuvre us as a species. I’m not certain, but the data suggests that environmental and social resilience, the sustainability of the world as we know it, lies in bold approaches to diversity and in clear, open and active governance and reporting. We have a vital role to play in adopting and enabling a clear and focused approach and ensuring the professions we ally with do the same.

There are lessons we can and have learned from living under the constraints of Covid: We can work together.

With the right data and the right KPIs it is possible to look at society as a whole and work towards a bigger picture.

Without leadership and a disciplined science-based approach, there are plenty of opportunities for confusion, conflict and breakdown. PR has had a vital role to play in sustaining us through this latest battle.

It will have an even bigger role to play – as we all do – in the biggest battle, which has already begun. It’s time for those who will lead our profession and the world forward to step up and for the rest of us to encourage, challenge and support them and be prepared to take the strain.

We are a very human breed, us PR folk. Let’s show the world we can play our part in this challenge which will test our profession and its humanity – indeed the whole of humanity – like never before.

Article written by Hugh Davies, Consultant at AQ Green TeC

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