PR representation – and why it matters

By Aimee Postle, CIPR Midlands Chair,

The current State of the Profession survey is out in the market for research now (don’t forget to complete and have your say! – but last year’s figures showed an upbeat and growing industry, albeit one facing a series of challenges around mental health, the gender pay gap and fake truth or misinformation.

With the launch this week of the #AIinPR report, we can see that the floor beneath the industry’s feet is shifting rapidly. And, if we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves struggling to keep up with digital, marketing, advertising and professional services which have all dipped their toes in the water, if not gone head under.

So, within this context, why are we still talking about whether individuals and organisations are worthy of PR representation? It feels a bit old hat; surely we’ve rehearsed this debate over and again? Surely we’ve established that, as a professional services provider, we offer a professional service with everything that entails?

The question is, what exactly does that entail?

The Bell Pottinger scandal may be ancient history but debate over who we can represent, ethically and professionally, still reigns supreme. Made even more complex when there are multiple stakeholders involved.

Take, for example, a development or big infrastructure project. There will be winner and losers, local businesses and communities who will benefit and those who will suffer. There are local authorities and national government bodies, transport providers, construction industry professionals and many more who all have an opinion. Are all of them entitled to representation?

How about the burgeoning ‘wellness’ industry? Or the plant-based diet trend? Or e-cigarettes? The research is still so new in these sectors, how do we know what will be uncovered in the future? Are those who have a voice qualified to speak on the subject? What is our role as PR professionals in amplifying, mediating or selecting that voice?

What about individuals with questionable track records? They are entitled to representation in a court of law? Should that automatically mean they are entitled to representation in the court of public opinion? Where is the line drawn when it comes to offering a professional and ethical reputation management service to those who’s reputation is not spotless?

With consolidation in media ownership, the power of the tech companies and a few powerful voices arguably shaping the way in which many people consume the news, where does the onus sit in terms of ensuring that the truth makes it to the surface? And who’s truth are we talking about anyway?

So, while we may be treading old ground, these questions are just as relevant today as they have always been. Perhaps even more so when the power of the individual voice is so strong.

That’s why, in the Midlands, we’re hosting #PowerAndInfluence Live, an informal event to bring together surveyors, solicitors, PR and marketing professionals to discuss the ethics behind PR representation and the role we play in society. To find out more about the event, click here

Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash


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