The Bell Pottinger revelations have turned the tables on the PR industry, putting our sector in the spotlight for once and not in a good way. The news has highlighted the fundamental importance of ethics in business – no matter what the industry.
The public relations sector often gets bad press in this regard. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for this is that the man or woman on the street still doesn’t fully understand what PR is. Representations of it in popular culture at least tend to be skewed, with the escapades of Ab Fab’s Eddy and Patsy at one end of the spectrum, through to the naked cynicism and foul-mouthed spin doctoring of Malcolm Tucker in Armando Iannucci’s brilliant The Thick of It at the other.
The truth is not quite as flamboyant but no less important. Actually what public relations is about is helping businesses to better connect with each other and the general public, by articulating a proposition clearly and finding the common ground between what a business wants to say and what the media wants to hear. It’s awareness raising – people can’t buy services or products from a company that they don’t know exists.
There’s a variety of methods and channels for doing this – from media relations and marketing communications to brand building and networking. In our increasingly digitised world, the ways of connecting people continues to exponentially grow, with the proliferation of social media platforms, apps and even virtual reality offerings. Very rarely do the public see this full spectrum of the communications arsenal.
Whatever combination of routes an agency and its client selects, the foundation of high-quality communications remains transparency and honesty. As well as being the right thing to do, sticking with the truth makes business sense. There’s no value in committing a client to something they can’t deliver or a position they can’t uphold.
Good communications unlocks opportunities for business and makes for better commercial and societal outcomes. To take an example from one of the sectors that Camargue operates in, construction – here, calls for closer collaboration across the supply chain, between clients and contractors, architects and engineers, specifiers and materials suppliers, are never ceasing. And while digital revolutions like BIM are helping to achieve these goals, what really lies behind them is getting people to be better at talking to and understanding each other – better communication and information sharing within businesses and between them.
Good PR is good for business and consumers alike, but perhaps as a sector we need to get better ourselves at communicating what we do and the tangible benefits it brings.
Steph Byrne is an account manager at Camargue