The PR industry may need a public relations campaign of its own to
improve its image. This is one conclusion from a damning internal
survey conducted by the Victorian chapter of the PR Institute of
Australia.

When the institute polled its members asking for feedback, it
optimistically expected a candid response. Now the results are in, and
they’re not pretty. In a report to members circulated yesterday, the
institute’s Victorian President David Hawkins admits: “Most people
think the PRIA sucks. The average score across all members was about
four out of a possible nine.”

Many of the 92 PR types who responded didn’t hold back in their
criticism, complaining the PRIA was “increasingly irrelevant”, “no
longer representative of the industry,” and “hopelessly slow”, with an
“appalling website” and insufficient professional development
opportunities.

The gloomy mood prompted one respondent to suggest direct action. Asked
what extra services the PRIA should provide to members, she suggest ed
“a public relations campaign – ongoing – to explain, and where
necessary, defend, public relations.”

One respondent reported: “I don’t really feel I get anything from my
membership – it doesn’t seem to have much relevance to my current
position or m y ongoing development.” Another complained: “I have never
received info (in two years!) about trends, case studies, visiting
experts… anything that develops my work and body of knowledge.”

The survey revealed that ethical problems loom large, as PR
professionals struggle with image perceptions of the industry as
influence peddlers and news manipulators. Some claimed these problems
are not helped by the PRIA’s own actions: “PRIA executives support the
radio program ‘spin doctors’ and as a consequence align the profession
with its biggest criticism,” complained one respondent.

Asked to define the role of the PR industry, responses ranged from
“relationship managers” to “promoting socially responsible behaviour”.
“There was one other response,” PRIA members were told in one indicator
of the problems facing the industry’s professional body: “but at the
time of going to print the editor couldn’t find the email.”

While ethical dilemmas loomed large, a brief perusal of several ‘PRIA
events’ indicates the industry still takes a hard-nosed approach to its
task. PRIA members can take advantage of events such as: “Activists –
How to beat them at their own game. Controversial Canadian PR
consultant Ross Irvine will conduct a half-day workshop on strategies
to use against activists.” Anyone for mace?

Or how about a “Presentation skills 4 PR workshop”? “Package yourself
by learning how to master the art of influence. President of Vancouver
based firm, ePublic Relations, Ross advises clients on how to use
activists’ own street-smart tactics in response to their campaigns.”

Maybe Crikey’s large number of PR subscribers can help out the PRIA.
Send your suggestions on how the professional body can improve – and
how industry can enhance its image – to [email protected]