Wednesday, January 11, 2006

What we do is now important

Until now, it was not of more than passing interest to know what PR people do and what potential there is for Public Relations.

In a time when Public Relations is growing very fast and when there are so many practitioners active a variety of ways this it becomes important.

It is important for many organisations.

In most countries and especially in the UK Government has an interest. There are Departments of State that sponsor specific industries. When a sector becomes large enough it attracts the attention of these departments who like to know what they are dealing with and what the sector does.

The PR associations such as the Chartered Institute of Public Relations has an interest in what its members do, and to the extent that such practitioners look to and join the Institute. Then there are practices and organisations that cross over with PR. In addition, the CIPR needs to know what services it need to meet its members expectations and needs.

What if one is designing training courses or degree courses in PR? What do you put in the curriculum.

These are all investment decisions and so now it is time to look at what is involved. What will practitioners need to know about, how can they draw on best practice? How can they evaluate their work? If the educators are not sure what PR is about, its quite hard.

If one just looks at communication, the range of channels is now astonishing and for a PR person with a role in communication, knowing about each and all of them is a matter of simple good practice.

The wider context is found by seeking the effect of Public Relations in our cultures reflecting the concept espoused by Cutlip, Center & Broomi (Cutlip, Center & Broom, 1993). Additionally, there is an argument that suggests that there is an economic impact, and corporate financial evolution which are convergent with the practices of public relations described in the literature and by practitioners as 'Relationship Management'.

In the joint report between the Institute of Public Relation and the UK Department of Trade and industry “Unlocking the Potential of Public Relations: Developing Good Practice” (CIPR 2003) Public Relations is defined as: “influencing behaviour to achieve objectives through the effective management of relationships and communications.”

In a paper, 'The Economic Significance of Public Relations' (CIPR 2005) prepared for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, The Centre for Economics and Business Research ltd (CEBR) provided a list of 19 activities performed by practitioners. It identifies practice as diverse.

I have empirical evidence of practitioners claiming to work in the Public Relations domain, through membership of the CIPR with 75 different job descriptions.

Breadth of practice is evidenced elsewhere with a movement in the USA centred on electronic communication which claims the high ground of symmetrical public relation practice in the use and application of two way or 'citizen' relationship building using technologies such as Blogs, Wiki's and RSS feeds. Evidence of this movement is found at the NewPR web site ( and in the discussions in the Global PR Week events (

The practice of Relationship Management – err Public Relations is very broad and here is the rant.

The industry has a wonderful opportunity but where is the real evidence that the Institutions are aware of the changes happening around them. Their research is does not help a lot. Would you believe that the Chartered Institute of Public Relations research shows that PR people spend more time running parties that on-line PR?

i Cutlip, S. M., A. H. Center and G. M. Broom. 1993. Effective Public Relations. 7th ed. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

Picture: Lunch at the Boating Party Pierre Renoir