I wasn’t going to write about the Radio 4 Media Show debate on PR but after mulling over the discussion I feel I must. I will start with a confession that I started my working life as a journalist but after more than 20 years in PR I can confirm the skills and roles are very different.
There are some similar skills such as being able to write, being able to analyse date and events, and being able to talk to all kinds of people. The differences are too many to write.
I struggled to recognise my experiences of PR within the discussion on the programme. With an estimated 70,000 people working in the industry I am sure few will feel the images presented were close to their lives. As a grassroots PR person working in the public sector my world is filled with considering local people , finding ways to have meaningful conversations with them, and redesigning processes, policies and systems to provide a better service for them.
Media relations is just one part of the wide range of aspects to my work. We work closely with journalists but I would hope it is a mutually respectful position. We both of our roles to perform but we can do it without antagonism and conflict.
The debate had just one mention of crisis communication and that was only to regale the story of Jerry Hall. This is not my crisis communication experience. In my world we work with victims to help them have a voice, we work with investigators to help find evidence, we work with partner agencies to help with recovery, and we work with the media to help save lives.
PR for me isn’t a ‘dark art’. It isn’t about storytelling. It is about helping people. It is about finding criminals. It is about improving services to communities. It is about helping to connect the organisation to the local people it serves. It is about doing all this with efficiency based on insight and with clear evaluation.
A year ago I offered to show a national newspaper journalist what my PR actually was. Twelve months on I make the same offer to those on the Radio 4 Media Show.