The question of public relations and the public good

7 Nov

It had been an obstacle on the rocky road to the royal charter – the question of how PR contributes to the public good.

I’m a guest at a police public relations conference and no one here would have any difficulty in answering this question. Their everyday work on crime reduction and their handling of major incidents exemplifies this. They don’t need to go chasing headlines; they’re in the local news each day and frequently gain national attention.

I’m humbled by the quality of the work on display. One former broadcast journalist told how he used his visual storytelling skills to relate the experience of a young victim of fireworks burns. The video only had a few hundred viewings, so he used his persuasive skills to have it featured on YouTube in the run up to November 5. It was then watched hundreds of thousands of times. Cheap, creative, effective; and clearly for the public good.

The attendees are typical of other public relations gatherings: there’s something like a 60-40 ratio of women to men. At last night’s black tie dinner this seemed to me as glamorous a group of people as you would meet at an equivalent awards dinner attended by consultancy staff. But they’re a few years older, on average. The typical route in to police communications remains print of broadcast media experience, though there’s widespread respect for education – I had many conversations about the CIPR professional qualifications and our MSc in Corporate Communications.

There was an award for a talented young communicator and Amy Grimshaw, a final year undergraduate, gained plaudits for confidently delivering the better part of ‘my’ talk on communications and social media.

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