PR needs the space to party

An interesting blog post at PRConversations on the importance of creating spaces for 21st century relationships and conversations reminded me of a story about the UK’s parents being the most protective in the world.

There is a common theme regarding the importance of finding spaces in which to develop and build connections with others.

In the case of cotton wool kids, the likes of Simon Woodroffe have claimed societal restrictions are impacting on the ability of children to become entrepreneurial.  Children not allowed to play freely and being monitored 24:7 by their parents they may be unable to form social relationships or be stunted in creativity.

This over-controlling syndrome is not exclusive to modern childhood however, as we see it in the workplace and wider society. 

George Monbiot reports how British libel laws are said to threaten the “free-flowing marketplace of ideas” – citing the example of how Craig Murray is being bullied by law firm Schillings, which uses legal manoeuvrings to “protect the reputations of high-profile individuals, corporates and brands”.,

In Wales, an Assembly Government civil servant was sacked for running a political blog and is taking his case to an Employment Tribunal.

If people are not allowed to debate and discuss, to challenge and question, to explore without fear of making a mistake, then what kind of society will we live in and what will be the ultimate role of PR?  Arguably in a controlled and closed society, the PR function is purely one of propaganda rather than facilitating conversations and maintaining relationships.

In the same way that children need safe spaces in which to explore and express themselves, one function of PR is perhaps to create the kind of spaces where organisations can be more playful and open in engaging with their publics.  Not simply using events to inform or persuade in line with the corporate objectives.

Last week I asked questions regarding the point of blogger outreach initiatives – those behind the particular activities claimed they were seeking to “build some relationships”.  I do think organisations, and busy PR people, need to think through the value and purpose of the relationships they seek to establish (and with whom) – but we don’t always know at the outset what the benefits may be for both or either party.

Next week we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of MIPAA with a Summer Soirée at the House of Lords. There’s no agenda and members are able to invite friends, family, colleagues and contacts to the event.

It will be a space where conversations take place and relationships are developed – whatever and whoever these may involve. 

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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.

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