What does it take to be an expert in PR?

I just heard on BBC Breakfast, former Celebrity Big Brother contestant and ex-Football Association employee Faria Alam described as a public relations expert.  A search of Google reveals the only link between her and PR was in employing publicist Max Clifford following the FA-Sven sex scandal.

Of course, Clifford is all over the media as a “PR expert” himself commenting on the current BB outrage – giving advice to Jade on how to reinvent herself. 

Although Clifford can claim many years experience in media relations/publicity management, this does not, in my view, make him a PR expert.  Simply describing herself as in PR, shouldn’t encourage the BBC to present Faria as having professional expertise beyond her experience on the show either.

Another argument for licensing and greater professionalisation of public relations?

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

7 thoughts on “What does it take to be an expert in PR?”

  1. Yes, definitely another argument for licensing in public relations. Maybe it is time for the world to be told that publicity agents such as Max Clifford are just that: agents to rouse publicity on behalf of their clients. But with the addition of “truth unimportant.”

    Daniel Boorsten said:” P T Barnum’s discovery was not how easy it is to deceive the public, but rather, how much the public enjoyed being deceived. The Max Cliffords of this world probably know this but the only time people like him should be mentioned in the same breath as a professional public relations practitioners is to highlight the stark contrast between his work and ours.

  2. Perhaps rather than arguing against publicity agents, there should be more credit for their job and so they are able to admit that is their function. There should be nothing to be ashamed of in seeking publicity if that is your goal. Public relations is something different, and not simply focused on getting (or avoiding) publicity.

    As you quote from Barnum, the public don’t mind a good publicity stunt (ie not PR stunt), provided they are not being deceived in a criminal way. It is a real skill to do well – and I’ve huge admiration for the great publicists of old and those like Barkowski today who use the art in a positive manner.

  3. If our history is steeped in press agentry then are we relegated to being categorised alongside it for ever more? Why doesn’t Max Clifford and his ilk differentiate themselves from us? Is it because they think we are purely an offshoot of what they do?

  4. Publicity is by nature highly visible and focused on working with journalists who in turn are the ones who believe that is all there is to PR in many instances. Or maybe “public relations” sounds more important than being a publicist and hence is claimed by the likes of Clifford.

    In terms of the history, we could look at the development of publicity as a function in its own right – what some people term “marketing PR” – rather than as Grunig & Hunt did in showing it to be a development stage towards two-way communications.

    Could be an interesting topic for your final critique here.

  5. Yes, I think it could be. I also enjoy discovering the all encompassing efforts of new-age marketing while wondering about new ideas to ensure we don’t get crushed in the stampede!

  6. While we are weathering the storm, let us extol the virtues of our profession and push education and professionlism by celebrating the CIPR’s advanced certificate’s recent applause and our increasing membership.

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