Should we judge PR people by their contacts? Hear from our course leader, Chris Tucker

Should we judge PR people by their contacts? Hear from our course leader, Chris Tucker

PR people are often judged by their contacts rather than their intellectual rigour. This needs to change.

In the third of our course leader series of interviews I caught up with Chris Tucker, who directs our CIPR Diploma in public relations course. Chris has 20 years of experience working across different sectors and was formerly director of PR at Barclays. She also has a background in marketing, which means she is ideally placed to answer that commonly asked question: what are the main differences between public relations and marketing?

Here’s what she had to say….

Ann: Having worked in both public relations and marketing, what do you see as being the main differences between the two disciplines?

Chris: I think it is becoming increasingly difficult to be definitive about the differences.  There has been encroachment from both sides. Marketeers talk about ‘internal marketing’ when they mean internal communications and plenty of PR people in the public and third sectors talk about ‘social marketing.’  I would say, however, the classic definition that states marketing is centred on ‘profitability’ is still a good place to start, whereas Public Relations should begin with reputation and relationship management.

Ann: From a senior in-house PR position, what made you move into teaching?

Chris: Being the PR Director for one of the biggest banks in the world was a fantastic opportunity, but one I was happy to put to bed once I had started a family!  The 24/7 rolling news agenda is a tough one if you want a private life.  That may not please the feminist lobby, but everyone has to make the right choice for how they want to live their life.  That said, I do still do a fair bit of consultancy work and media training senior executives is a particular passion of mine.  It is incredibly rewarding to see people grow in confidence before your very eyes.  In terms of teaching I did not see it as a particularly new direction.  I always saw coaching as one of the biggest parts of my in-house role and one I really enjoyed. 

Ann: What do you think practitioners can get from formal training or education that they can’t get on the job?

Chris: Again that word ‘confidence’.  If you sit in a Boardroom you are really conscious of the amount of trained expertise around you – all MBAs and finance or marketing degrees.  PR people are often judged by their contacts rather than their intellectual rigour but this needs to change.  It may often be the case that it is our PR gut feel that leads to good decisions, but how much better it would be for us to know that this instinct is also backed by academic theory, experts in the field and solid case studies. That is what formal training such as the CIPR Diploma should give you.

Ann: What do you think are the major challenges facing PR practitioners?

Chris: It’s a bit seismic at the moment.  It is really the PR take on the changes facing business and organisations in general such as globalisation and the awareness of and respect for different cultures that implies; transparency and accountability as people question the traditional figures of authority; and the multiplicity of stakeholders that now have to be listened to and communicated with.  Of course, the impact of social media fuels all of these.

Thanks Chris!