Stop blaming PR for everything

By Lisa Townsend,

Bad people are doing bad things again, so it must be time for someone to take aim at the PR industry.

In The Times last week, Libby Purves used her column inches to call-out not just Facebook, the Catholic Church and Philip Green (as well as ‘a few NHS hospitals’) but also at those in the business of advising individuals and organisations who find themselves in the public eye (“The clean-up industry has never been busier”, February 11).

Hanover Communications CEO Charles Lewington was right in his letter to the editor (‘Stature and Spin’, February 12) in arguing that using only worst-case examples unjustly tars an entire industry.

As with so many things, prevention is far better than cure and when organisations are prepared to work and communicate well with PR and other comms professionals, they will usually find that examples such as those Purves highlights are completely avoided.

There are many excellent PR and communications experts the wider public (and, I suspect, Libby Purves) have never heard of because they are skilfully doing their jobs day in, day out, helping organisations avoid exactly the types of mistakes that Philip Green and others like him have made.

In the case of the Catholic Church, and where other clearly criminal acts have taken place, there is not, and should be no amount of comms planning and advice that could ever mitigate these actions.

That does not mean that we are not all entitled to robustly defend ourselves when wronged, and to put our best face forward to the world. To blame friends of a pregnant woman, recently thrust into one of the most high-profile roles in the world, of wanting to come to her defence as an example of the ‘professional effort’ in managing reputation is surely to mistake an entire profession with just having good, savvy friends (not that the Duchess of Sussex is lacking in good professional advice).

As an industry, public relations has not always taken its own advice, and we have often stood back and allowed others to portray the industry as Purves does.

Taking advice from a professional – be they a lawyer, a doctor or an expert in communications – should never be something to be ashamed of.

Lisa Townsend is Head of PA at Octopus Group and a member of the Influence Editorial Board.

Image courtesy of pixabay user fietzfotos

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