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So, what exactly is it that you do for a living?

Posted by Louise Palmer on 29th September 2016

As a current member of the PRCA Council, I meet with fellow PR and communications professionals to discuss the issues we face, debate how to address these and explore how we can drive recognition for the value that we bring to the business world.

This month’s meeting was one that I particularly connected with. Following a roundtable-style discussion with 50+ members of the Council on growth in the PR sector, chaired by the Holmes Report’s Arun Sudhaman, we broke into groups to explore pertinent questions in more detail.

For the group I was in, the question posed was how PR could attract and retain the best talent. But rather than concentrate on the latter part of the question, our discussions focused in on what I believe is at the heart of this particular issue – what exactly is ‘PR’?

How can we attract the best talent if they don’t even know what PR is, what we do or how brilliantly versatile this profession can be in creating career opportunities that suit a wide range of skills and interests. Few of us are an Alistair Campbell or Patsy and Eddy.

I think back to my childhood, and my friends who confidently said: ‘Mum, Dad, I’m going to be a doctor/vet/teacher/solicitor/ banker’ (select all that apply). It’s likely they received a nod of approval or, at the least, an opinion on the pros and cons of taking that career path.

I remember telling my parents when I’d landed a job in PR – I received a (cue a voice akin to Bridget Jones’ mother in the movie) ‘that sounds lovely dear, well done’…with a smiling nod and, I admit, a rather vacant look behind the eyes.

Seventeen years on, it hasn’t changed much. A family get-together this month led to talk about work, where my cousin was asked about her new role at a nationwide charity…in ‘internal communications’ no less.

‘That sounds lovely…what exactly is it you do?’ chorused the family. My cousin piped up with ‘well it’s like PR, only I PR the company internally’. Cue the obligatory nods and smiles – and a swift change in conversation.

Offended? No. Frustrated? Yes. PR is a serious profession, but it continues to lack a lot of recognition outside of those of us who work in the industry.

To attract the best talent to the PR sector we need to highlight what a varied, interesting and challenging environment it is that we work in. It’s time to be confident about our place in the business world and our ability to make a genuinely valuable contribution.

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Louise Palmer

Deftly switching between business and consumer accounts, the focus for Louise remains the same; how can Wildfire tell clients’ stories in a way that is faithful, relevant and engaging? Her wide technology PR experience makes Louise an agile Managing Director, combining the strategic management of PR programmes with a hands-on approach to get under the skin of clients and motivate her teams.