It’s clearly the month to take a pop at PRs. Just before Nick Cohen jumped on the bandwagon, as covered here by Darren Willsher; we were all reeling from when Robert Peston undertook a full-on PR offensive at the Charles Wheeler Lecture this month.
In a statement reminiscent of “I’m not racist but…”, the respected economics editor at the BBC claimed “Some of my best friends work in PR!” before launching a scorching attack on the PR industry. It’s the equivalent of the barely-veiled insult: “No offence, but…”
People working in the PR industry are really outraged by his rant; he likened us all to “professional bullshitters”. Had he had a bad morning? After all, he just swept his massive tarring brush over an ENTIRE job sector.
Francis Ingham, director general of the PRCA bit back, and described the scathing remarks as “venomous, ill-judged diatribe” and “a sanctimonious few paragraphs”.
The way Peston put it, it’s as if I can just ring up my mate on a national and get them to churn out a story for me so I can meet the expectations of my client. No. Just no. We don’t, and won’t, gain coverage where it is not justified.
Reading the opposing arguments was a bit like a couple of guys sparring with each other in some kind of industry battle: “PRs are the enemy!” screams Peston. “Your industry relies on mine!” bellows Ingham, waving his fists.
As far as I’m concerned, the two industries are entirely the same as well as being worlds apart. We work together and separately, not without bumps in the road, but usually pretty harmoniously.
Ingham had the right idea in that if stories are engaging, fun or informative, what does it matter where the story comes from?
Most PRs and journalists know it’s not about spinning a line, but about creating a lasting relationship. Things are changing with the times. Both professions deserve credit and mutual respect. Let us crack on with it Peston, you can sulk in a corner by yourself.