Dead PaRrot sketch

About the author

Richard Bailey FCIPR MPRCA is editor of PR Academy's PR Place Insights. He teaches and assesses undergraduate, postgraduate and professional students.

Robert Phillips
Robert Phillips

It’s no joke. It’s a high quality argument about the future of public relations raging on the PRCA website this week.

For those who missed it, or who want the digested read, here’s a summary of the arguments.

PR is dead (though the body is still twitching), by Robert Phillips (24 March)
“It is clear that PR needs urgent reform. It remains mostly an analogue function in a digital age – Edward Bernays’ Kodak to the Cluetrain’s social revolution…A new model is needed – a model I have chosen to call Public Leadership. “

Robert Phillips is crowdfunding a new book called PR is Dead. He is a consultant, lecturer and author, and a colleague of George Pitcher’s at Jericho Chambers.

We are in the information not illusion business, by Mike Love (25 March)
“The story of Public Relations is that we are in the business of influencing opinion and behaviour… Collapse in public trust has been fuelled by a never-ending series of ‘the world’s gone mad’ stories including bankers’ bonuses, NHS scandals, MPs’ expenses, PPI mis-selling, the state spying on citizens, and abortive searches for WMDs (bit controversial that last one). None of this is down to bad PR… To argue that PR should be replaced with something called Public Leadership confuses who is the writer with who the director… PR is alive and well.”

Mike Love is chairman of Burson-Marsteller UK

PR is alive and well, by Stephen Waddington (26 March)
“Public relations is taking an increasingly assertive position as a strategic management discipline. It is the primary means by which organisations engage, taking the lead in helping define and deliver on their purpose. As social forms of communication extend into marketing, customer service, product development, human resources, research and development and beyond, operational silos within organisations are being knocked down. Organisations are realising that public relations has a role within every area of an organisation. It is an internal role as much as an external role.”

Stephen Waddington is European Digital & Social Media Director at Ketchum and President of the CIPR

I love Mike Love dearly, but he’s got it wrong, by George Pitcher (27 March)
“The job of communication has been to create trust and that’s the process on which PR grew during its boom years. But it doesn’t work anymore. That’s because the old elites of influence have collapsed, the old media can’t cut it anymore, and those “publics” you talk about won’t buy it, because they’re networked, asymetrical and horizontal, so they won’t be controlled vertically. Politics or business, you’ll only be judged on what you do rather than on what you say.”

UPDATE (there’s been a new contribution since our article was published)

“Communications is the art, craft and science with which we practice public relations.  We communicate to create meaning. We communicate to create community. And we communicate to create space for the business to thrive – by meeting stakeholder needs and contributing in society beyond the profit motive.”

Bjorn Edlund is Brussels Chairman, Europe & CIS, Edelman