Michael Tangeman’s post What public relations can and cannot do … includes reference to a comment made by the vice-chairman of the ICAEW corporate finance faculty, Ian Leaman, that private equity had simply ‘failed at the PR game.’
This PR-blame comes on the back of the Gordon Brown-bounce denial of spin and the Cameron equivalent where he doesn’t defend PR in the face of criticism that he is “concentrating on public relations ‘stunts’ rather than developing policies.”
Although, we have an ever increasing public profile for public relations it is accompanied by greater and greater ignorance about what is actually involved.
What all three of these examples really need is genuine public relations. Instead, they (and the media) see only a need to manipulate the public via the media as being the role of PR.
I particularly object to the ignorance of people like Ian Leaman because his inane comment is picked up and communicated to those responsible for corporate budgets.
He is apparently an expert in mergers and acquisitions on the basis of his experience as a chartered accountant. I wonder what expertise he has in understanding corporate culture and its influence on whether such corporate marriages will be a success. Or his knowledge of building relationships with publics, such as employees, suppliers, local communities, politicians and other influencers. Or how about analysing issues and understanding risk management from a communications and relationship perspective?
All of these areas are vital in mergers and acquisitions – and require professional public relations skills and strategies. He seems to think that PR is a game of bluff rather than involving the abilities of a chess master to be successful.
In Leaman’s view the role of investor relations is as follows:
In a listed company you would probably have a full-time professional or outside agency doing the investor relations role. That is very squarely in the lap of the FD in a private equity-backed business, a key part of the model in private equity is the alignment of shareholder and management interests.
That’s the real problem with these vocal critics of public relations – if politicians and finance directors are so marvelous at co-orientation, and just need PR to tell the world how super they are (regardless of the reality), is it any wonder the public increasingly see they are wearing no clothes?