Friday, 2 September 2011

Moving House

For all those who have followed me methodically, periodically, or accidentally over the past three years I would like to announce my blog posts will be moving to the newly launched PRCA website.

You can continue to gaze at the wider world of PR, politics and whatever happens to occupy my mind at this webpage:


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Close Down Twitter? Not In A Democratic Society

I've just read a comment on Conservative Home by Tory MP Nadine Dorries. It supports suggestions that twitter etc should be closed down during any repeat of the rioting which took place last week.

Before I type my next paragraph, let me be quite clear (though to most people who know me it will come as no surprise): I belong to the same party as Mrs Dorries. I was a Tory Councillor. I was a Tory Association officer. I worked for the Party.

So with that context given.... her idea is one of the most awful I've heard a Tory MP suggest for many years.

Twitter et al helped rioters. Well, it also helped the Police and the other emergency services respond to the rioting. It also helped 'civilians' both during and after the rioting. It's also now helping the Courts and the other relevant authorities in the aftermath.

Her reaction is a terrible example of blaming the medium, not the individual. Doubtless newspapers have given publicity to ideas of which she disapproves -and indeed of ideas and movements which are themselves against the law. Doubtless the same is true also of books. But you don't close down either, because that is not just a ridiculously unfair over-reaction, it's also patently self-defeating.

To quote Kissinger -a man whose career I am sure we have both always regarded with a large degree of admiration- "Leaders are responsible not for running public opinion polls but for the consequences of their actions". The proposal to close down twitter might well get a favourable headline in a couple of newspapers, but the consequence of doing so would be so out of keeping with a democratic society as to be unthinkable.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Credit Where Credit's Due....

Yesterday, I spent eight hours briefing the media on the implications of the Court of Appeal's ruling in the PRCA and Meltwater case versus the NLA. It was a good day, and we conveyed many of our key messages.

On the back of that, I've received a great many messages of support from the industry's leading figures. They appreciate the time and effort the PRCA and Meltwater have expended in fighting the NLA. Those messages are very welcome.

We have been delighted to stand up for our industry, and delighted to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Meltwater in this case.

What has perplexed me though is how those who bodies that declined to be involved in the case are now attempting to claim credit for it. Let me be utterly clear on this. Other monitoring providers, and other professional bodies, were invited to join with Meltwater and the PRCA. And they declined.

I read some people's public comments therefore with at least a raised eyebrow.

Let me be quite clear. The only people who have been involved in this case -who have had, dare I say, the balls to fight the NLA- have been the PRCA and Meltwater.

Nobody else.

No other private company.

No other membership body.

We asked a number of those organisations to become involved. They declined. While I welcome their support now, sometimes I do wonder what value their support is when it is nothing more than a blogpost....

As for our role, well I tried to express it yesterday in a recording at M4DC. You can see it here.

To my mind, this is one of the key bits: "Over the course of this past year, some people have asked us why we have gone to the time and expense of fighting the NLA in the Courts. The answer is very straightforward. It is our duty. There is no point being an industry body if you are too scared or too lazy or too arrogant or too indifferent to stand up for your industry. That is what we have done, and I am proud that we continue to do so."

Friday, 15 July 2011

The PRCA's Onward March

Well, that was a pretty good week really.

What did we achieve?

We launched the PR Census 2011. It is by far the most comprehensive and detailed analysis of the industry ever undertaken. I say that having overseen the CIPR’s attempt to do the same six years or so ago. It gives us detailed knowledge of the size shape, pay and background of the industry and its participants. It will be of great value to our industry, and is a fine example of collaboration between the PRCA and PR Week.

We did a PRW webcast on it. And a Gorkana one too

Our members said that the worst was yet to come for News International -and have surely been vindicated already.

Yesterday was the inaugural PRCA-APPC-VMA public affairs summer drinks party. A thoroughly crowded St Stephen’s Club saw some of the most powerful people in the industry gather, exchange views and drink decent wine. We were even happy to welcome the CIPR’s Phil Morgan and my friend its ex-President Lionel Zetter there too.

The second deadline for our awards closed, with entries up by around a half. And, of course, we welcomed a couple more corporate members.

So the onwards march of the PRCA continues....

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

NOTW -the wider picture

Both as somebody who knows the communications industry reasonably well, and as a parent, the News of the World allegations are astonishing and appalling.

The wall of contempt that has hit News International is remarkable both in its ferocity and its justification. And indeed in the financial risk it poses.

Yesterday, Rebecca Brooks struck a defiant pose, clinging to her role. She ought to have resigned. Were I a betting man, I wouldn't be risking much on her still being at the helm in a month's time. The pressure on and from advertisers is so acute that throwing the NOTW's critics her head might well be the only sensible way to stem the flow of money.

Last night, I was chatting with a senior person in one of NI's rival titles. Their concern was that the reputational damage being done to NI would be collateral to the wider newspaper industry. That NOTW's hacking activities would damage not just one newspaper or indeed one group of newspapers, but newspapers as a whole; that this might be the tipping point for the PCC and its always under-pressure self-regulatory model.

Those seemed to be to be absolutely sensible observations. Imagine the reaction of politicians dragged through the mud by the Telegraph's revelations of their expenses arrangements. Their temptation must surely be to repay the industry that they blame for so much personal financial and reputational hurt.

Put all that together with the growing extinction of the newspapers' current business model, and I'm glad not to be in the newspaper industry right now.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Ding Dong the COI is Dead

Francis Maude has announced the COI's demise. Excellent news. I think tonight I shan't be the only one celebrating its demise.

Here's our official response:

"The Government is absolutely right to abolish the COI. Over recent years, it has become an appalling example of waste, inefficiency and blinkeredness. Within our industry, its reputation for arrogance and indifference has become legendary -very, very few people will mourn its passing.

In our formal submission to the Cabinet Office review, we urged the Government either to reform or to abolish the COI. We are delighted that we clearly share the same sentiments.

Those who weep for the COI do so from a position either of ignorance or of self-interest. Francis Maude has taken a bold and correct decision, and should be complimented, not criticised for doing so."

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Keynote at MIPAA

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of delivering the opening address at MIPAA's Masterclass.

For those of you who don't know MIPAA, it's the membership organisation that represents communicators working in the motor industry. It's also a PRCA sectoral group, with a seat on our PR Council. I thoroughly recommend it to you -if you're eligible to join it, then you should.

My comments yesterday were around the challenges PR faces over the coming years. The full transcript can be found here

But if you don't fancy reading the whole speech, there are the four key challenges I identified:

· Start addressing issues of strategic reputation management rather than tactical delivery. We're still magnificent about bemoaning the fact we often don't have a place at the top table -and rubbish at changing that situation. If we want to change it, we have to genuinely become the chief source of counsel to clients and CEOs.

· Embrace and embed robust evaluation standards. Our work with AMEC is vital here, but until clients, colleagues and we ourselves are willing to invest in evaluation, AVEs will linger on.

· Own the digital space. If we don't own it, someone else will. Digital is now an integral part of PR -we need to understand it, demystify it, own it.

· Attract the best talent. We shouldn't beat ourselves up about our industry -we are truly a colour, gender and sexuality blind industry in my experience. But we can usefully examine what those who choose not to work in our industry think of us -and if we genuinely are attracting and retaining the very best of talent.

Oh and I also made some comments on interns. We need to treat the whole intern issue with care. But at a minimum, we do need to observe the law. And the law is pretty clear -long-term internships bring with them the minimum wage.

Since May 1st, 16 MPs have advertised for unpaid jobs. That is hypocritical and outrageous. So.... we will be referring them to the Parliamentary authorities. Because you can't berate private industry for treating interns badly when you yourself advertise for staff whom you don't pay at all....

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The PRCA Training Price Guarantee

This week's PR Week should make interesting reading. It carries a pretty big ad detailing our Training Price Guarantee, which will be a bombshell for some people I imagine.

The Guarantee is very straightforward -we know our training is better than our competitors'. And we know those competitors charge more. So if you find a similar course offered by one of our competitors for less, then we'll not only beat their price, we'll also throw in a second place for free.

Now I know the worry with any such Guarantee is that there's a heap of smallprint that makes the offer meaningless. But that isn't the case here:

1. It doesn't have to be an identical course -just a 'similar' one. Similar topic, similar length, similar format. And we won't be playing semantics here. We'll be generous to you in interpreting the word 'similar'

2. And we list our competitors -and yes, that list includes CIM and CIPR.

So there's nothing tricky in what we 're offering -it's all very simple. All perfectly genuine.

Why are we doing this? Well because we want to attract even more people to our courses. We know they are of outstanding quality in every format -whether online, or face-to-face, or delivered bespoke in an organisation's offices. And they're delivered throughout the UK, in seven city centres.

We also know that much alternative PR training is highly theoretical rather than of practical use. Delivered by people who long since stopped actually doing PR, and decided instead just to talk about it. And we know that much PR training is priced ridiculously high.

Now that ridiculous pricing didn't perhaps matter as much when the boom years were upon us. But organisations are much more careful with their cash right now, and yet still need to train their staff -help them to keep their edge, help them to stay motivated.

This Guarantee ticks all those boxes.

So take a look at the PRCA Training Calendar . And make the right choice. Contact my colleague Jessica at Because what have you got to lose?

Monday, 9 May 2011

Got a super injunction? Plan as if you didn't

The super-injunction debate will continue to roll. Should celebrities be entitled to protect their private lives? Or are super-injunctions a curb on freedom of speech. What today’s developments and the wikileaks expose have made clear is that social media and other technological developments have made it much harder, even impossible, to control what is published.

The more you would like to keep a story under wraps, the more newsworthy it is likely to become. Given the speed with which the story is like to break, if it does, then you need to have a communications plan already in place to ensure that you are able to take control of it as much as possible. Here are a few things you can do just in case.

  • Anticipate the reaction from different stakeholders to the story and what questions/ concerns it will raise
  • Draft responses and answers
  • Make sure you have a plan to address the most important stakeholders, ie wife/ husband, clients etc not just the most vocal ones. Ideally they should hear the story from you.
  • Accept responsibility – trying to shirk responsibility makes you look weak and avoids trust. Take responsibility where it is appropriate and disclose as fully as you can.
  • You won’t be able to talk with everyone. Have a plan about how to reach your wider stakeholders and what you will say. Will you be engaging with your fans on facebook? Or will you email all your clients directly? Alternatively it may be appropriate to hold a press conference or brief journalists one on one.
  • Avoid a slow trickle release of information – the longer it takes for all the information to come out, the longer the story lasts. Every time you issue a correction or reveal more details, the less credible everything else you have said becomes.
ETA: This is a guest post by Richard Ellis, PRCA Communications Director

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


Just like Coulson's comment that the game's up when the spokesman himself needs a spokesman, there's something striking about the journalist's story becoming its own story.

Marr's revelation that he successfully took out a super-injunction has certainly made the headlines -probably indeed made more headlines than had he just allowed the truth to be reported a few years ago.

It raises many more questions than it offers answers -every interview he's ever done where he's even touched on privacy laws or infidelity is surely now being pored over by his fellows hacks. And not with a view to supporting him I'd imagine, because the fourth estate is nothing if not rigorous when it comes to screwing over one if its own. His comment that he would make no further comment is, therefore, hopeful at best.

The broader issue is much more important though.

There is something deeply disturbing about injunctions so overwhelming that even their very existence cannot be reported. And from the perspective of the super-rich, there is something so utterly and obviously attractive about them, that left untouched, their popularity can only soar.

I see that the Lib Dem MP John Hemming today tried to ask a question in the Commons about an injunction, but was stopped. Good for him for trying; bad for us he wasn't allowed to receive an answer. When even Parliamentary privilege isn't quite good enough, something has gone wrong in the balance between public disclosure and privacy; and in the Judiciary's attitude to the boundaries of the law.

In communications terms, there is a clear divide -on the one hand, a few judges and some stonkingly rich celebrities with rapacious libidos. On the other hand, pretty much everybody else.

The danger that the defenders of these super-injunctions run is that they become seen as the guardians of excess without responsibility or repercussion. If I were they, I wouldn't be so keen on that role.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Where Now For The COI?

Mark Lund's planned departure from the COI is, of course, just the latest piece of news to come out of Hercules House.

It all adds to a sense of an organisation in flux. We've been a critical friend to the COI over the years -noting the value it brings, but also noting the problems it struggles with.

Our submission to the Cabinet Office consultation on its future didn't pull its punches. We argued:

1. The COI needs fundamental reform

2. Millions of pounds have been wasted on ineffectual Government advertising -often little more than vanity projects

3. It needs to embrace a shift towards PR and away from advertising

4. The US Advertising Council model may well be the wrong one

Our Executive Summary's here:

We agree with the Government's general premise that the way it handles communications needs to change; and that the COI is ripe for fundamental reform. Our experience both of central Departments and of the COI convinces us that significant improvement is possible.

Indeed, we believe that this review should be root-and-branch, in order both to enhance the Government's legitimate communications needs, and to deliver improved taxpayer value for money and return on investment.

The COI needs to be made smaller, less bureaucratic, more business-friendly and more business-savvy. It also needs to be more authoritative within central Government Departments and other public sector communication operations, and to help raise the standards of the weaker-performing operations to those of the best.

We further agree with the Government's proposal that it should pursue a greater use of non-paid-for channels -again both by way of producing greater cost efficiencies, and in order to improve the efficacy of its communications activity. We believe that Governments have gradually become mesmerised by the attraction of advertising, lavishing increasingly large amounts of money upon it, while failing to evaluate its value. Quite simply, millions of Pounds are wasted on advertising ever year.

We support the creation of a cross-industry body, bringing together the professional representatives and largest commercial players in the marketing communications industry. There is a clear need for greater engagement between the public and private sectors, and such a body could be extremely useful in facilitating this.

We are convinced that such a body must be genuinely representative of the whole industry, and not be dominated by advertising interests. We are therefore concerned by the explicit reference to the US Ad Council which, as the name suggests, is not as broad-based as we would expect a UK cross-industry body to be.

We believe that the COI must be central to the Government's stated communications aims. It must also, however, receive strong and clear guidance from the Cabinet Office, and undergo radical reform if it is to achieve the Government's goals.

And here's our full submission.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Getting Fresh in Manchester

The Manchester Hilton was positively awash with PR people last week, as the Fresh Awards rolled in to town.

The PRCA's been delighted to support Fresh over the past few years. Aimed at a predominantly out-of-London audience, they celebrate the best that our industry has to offer.

As a judge, I know that the entries are interesting and varied, showcasing the fantastic work that our industry generates.

As an attendee, well the evening was certainly fun! Check this video out

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

UKPAC and public affairs regulation

Yesterday, the UKPAC Register launched.

It's a significant step forward. Combining the existing registers of the PRCA and the APPC, and bringing in new entries from CIPR individuals working in public affairs too, it is the most comprehensive summary of who works in the public affairs industry. It details names, contact details and clients,

I know that 251 CIPR members (including myself) have signed up; and that 61 PRCA member organisations employing 706 public affairs are registered too. Those 61 include -for the first time- 24 in house teams, as the PRCA represents in-house teams too.

Add to that number the APPC's consultancies too, and you have a very significant figure.

Now I know that for some people, this is not enough. They will demand more and more. And, frankly, whatever we delivered would never be enough.

Whatever their criticisms, this is a significant stop forward. It provides a foundation on which to grow self-regulation. It is -though doubtless our detractors will dispute this -a good thing.

Thursday, 24 February 2011


There's a bit of a -how shall I put it?- whinge in The Guardian.

They make some valid observations about churnalism, but seem to point the figure at our industry, whose growth they blame rather than celebrate Instead, they should try looking a little closer to home.

Yes, it's sometimes the case that press releases are pretty much copied and pasted by papers (a point we've made to the NLA...).

Yes, it's sometimes the case that papers don't interrogate stories as they should.

But there's a very simple reason for this -newspapers no longer employ an adequate number of journalists.

It's been happening for years, and there's no sign of it stopping. As newspaper circulations fall, and as sources of information proliferate, newspaper revenues decrease, and they employ fewer people. But those people are now expected not just to fill hardcopies of the paper, but online content too. So they're pretty busy....

It's hardly rocket science to work out what the problem is.

What is rather more difficult is working out the answer -quite how do we break this vicious circle. Because we lose out too. Answers (in a press release if you like) please.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Getting to the Best Talent

Today, we announce the creation of our Access Commission. Its remit is broad but simple: to look at the barriers to entry which exist within our industry, and to examine how to widen access so that the very best people are attracted to PR as a career -and having entered the industry, stay in it.

Every industry has barriers to entry -some (like being intelligent and hard-working) are obviously good; others (like bright people thinking they won't fit in) are obviously bad. It's the bad ones we want to identify and remove. Because we want to get to the very best talent.

So the Commission will examine a whole range of areas -class, disability, ethnicity, parent-friendly workplaces, internships etc etc. It will invite evidence, weigh it, and come forward with practical suggestions to enable our industry to appeal to the very brightest people, regardless of background.

The list of members is pretty impressive. Its Chairman is Insight Public Affairs' John Lehal. And the other members are:

Rishi Bhattacharya, Deputy Managing Director, Edelman
Magda Bulska, Account Manager, Insideout Communications
Leah Bryant, Chairman, PRCA Frontline
Bieneosa Ebite, Chair, Ignite and Managing Director, Brightstar PR
Lee Edwards, Lecturer, Manchester Business School
Nicky Garston, Senior Lecturer, Greenwich University
Kate Hartley, Managing Director, Carrot Communications
Robert Khan, Head of Law Reform, Law Society
Francis Ingham, Chief Executive, PRCA
Sandy Lindsay, Group Managing Director, Tangerine PR
Robert Minton-Taylor, Associate Senior Lecturer, Leeds Business School
Mike Morgan, CEO, Red Consultancy
Dan Murphy, Director of Corporate Communications, Remploy
Gina Ramson-Williams, Group Talent Director, Europe, Weber Shandwick
Danny Rogers, Editor, PR Week
Sarah Stimson, Course Director, Taylor Bennett Foundation

It'll report back in the early summer. I'm looking forward to its work. If you think you have something to contribute, email or DM me - @PRCAIngham

Thursday, 10 February 2011

What Does 2011 Hold?

Our industry's definitely more optimistic about the future than it was this time last year. That's the very clear message of our recent PRCA PR Leaders' Panel.

We asked our member MDs, CEOs and Comms Directors how positive they felt about their own organisation's prospects; about the industry's; and about the country's. We then calculated the balance of opinion by taking the negative responses away from the positive; and by splitting the agency respondents from the in-house ones.

And the results were pretty clear:

Consultancy's/organisation's overall prospects: Consultancy respondents +79; In-house respondents +54
PR industry's overall prospects: Consultancy respondents +53; In-house respondents+20

So -strong confidence from agencies and in house teams alike about their own prospects and about the idnustry's too.

A different picture emerges when asked about the UK's overall economic prospects though:

Consultancy respondents +21; In house respondents -13

The consistent gap between in house and agency sentiment is striking; as is the belief that while our own industry will prosper in 2011, the same isn't necessarily true of the wider economy.

Food for thought as we move through the year. The full results can be viewed at the PRCA site