The recession, a record deficit and a coalition government keen to take rapid action to ensure they take advantage of their honeymoon period.
Within this climate, communications professionals in the public sector are an easy target; when it comes to a choice between doctors and nurses and PR people, politically there is only one outcome: PR redundancies.
But what can PR do to fight its corner? Perhaps now more than ever PR must be able to illustrate the impact of what it does. What is our contribution? And does it matter?
Our web chat on Tuesday 26th Oct discussed this issue. On the panel were Paul Mylrea, Head of Press at the BBC and incoming president of the CIPR, and Simon Francis, Board Director at Band & Brown and lead on their Public Sector clients.
On the panel were:
Paul Mylrea, Head of Press, BBC and incoming President of the CIPR
Paul Mylrea is Head of Press & Media Relations for the BBC, where he is responsible for providing strategic and editorial leadership on key reputational issues. He began his career as a journalist and foreign correspondent, but for the last decade has held high-profile PR roles in the public and not-for-profit sectors. Paul, who is also President Elect of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and a visiting fellow at Bournemouth University’s Media School, is a strong believer in the ability of public sector communications to establish trust and achieve positive outcomes for citizens. He believes public sector PR professionals have to gear up to make the case for the value and professionalism of their work in the face of unfair and misleading rhetoric about ‘spin’.
Simon Francis, Board Director, Public Sector clients, Band and Brown
Simon started his career at B2B and tech specialists Johnson King in 2000, and after a spell at Geronimo (now Kindred), is a board director at Band & Brown leading the company's charity, public sector and CSR accounts. He tweets as si_francis.
My basic stance is that the industry has not done enough to make the case for comms to the government or to defend itself. Initiatives by the CIPR and PRCA have been sporadic, un-joined up and don't have the backing of the whole industry anyway.
There is a belief - and even admittance - that many agencies grew fat off the profits of public sector spending and this has led people to take the view that we should suck up the attacks on our profession, and take our cuts medicine.
I couldn't disagree more.
If agencies didn't measure their activity properly, then the attacks are fair enough, but much public sector PR activity has shown real tangible results and has delivered either behavioural change, cost savings or contributed to the efficient running of government and government services. In fact, examples are starting to emerge which show the negative impact of the spending cuts in this area.
The industry should be proud of these campaigns.
If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe for free to our twice weekly event and subscriber alerts.
Currently, every new subscriber will receive three of our favourite reports about the public relations sector.