Well, they can’t get my name right, but the folks at the PRIA have responded with lightning speed to our report a week back about the industry’s public relations troubles. National PRIA president Robert Masters has written to members denying the industry has any significant ethical dilemmas:

Dear Member

The recent Hugh Kelly (sic) article in Crikey.com.au on the survey conducted by the Victorian Branch of the PRIA has produced its usual informed and uninformed comments about the industry and what the PRIA provides to its members. Therefore, it does warrant a response, if only to correct some misconceptions and for members to know that the Institute is prepared to stand up to criticism in a public forum and to act on constructive comments.

The PRIA has never, in my term, hidden from its responsibilities of seeking to provide members with services to meet their needs and to establish policies which will enhance the profession for future generations. The PRIA operates at both a state and national level. The national office sets policies and provide guidelines for the operations of the states. The states, in turn, provide services to members, such as events and courses, complemented in some instances by national functions, such as the National Conference and Industry Awards.

In relation to PRIA services, therefore, a few facts:

  • There are currently more than 15 events/courses on offer throughout Australia next month; each state has at least two activities, some six. These events are a mixture of professional development and networking activities.
  • The national conference is held in a different state each year so that members in any one state are not disadvantaged every year by having to travel. The National conference , to be held in Brisbane on 23-25 October, is complemented by either state-based, or PRIA-supported conferences to provide members with further opportunities to enhance their professional development throughout the year.
  • The PRIA website has been significantly revamped in recent months, with: a members’ forum for open discussion on PR issues, or for seeking help with an issue (there are now more than 3,500 registered users); a jobs section; a list of reference books and papers on offer at special prices; special offers on the purchase of new computers, internet plans, bank loans, car rentals, mobile phone plans, motor vehicle insurance, tax services, health insurance etc. (all through the members’ card); daily industry information provided by Rehame, plus a special offer to members on media services; research information on all sectors of the Australian economy by IBIS World, plus a special offer to members seeking specific information; scholarships for members seeking to further their professional development; access to international research and information about the industry through the Global Alliance network, which is made up of the national public relations bodies in most major countries; and information about international conferences.

In relation to the profession and ethical issues, all members operate within a Code of Ethics, which is enforced through the College of Fellows. Action is taken against any member about whom there is a complaint. Words such as “influence peddlers” and “news manipulators” come from the insecurity of commentators because the Code states strictly that all members must deal “fairly and honestly” with all sectors of the community and also “not knowingly disseminate false or misleading information.” Therefore, the claim that “ethical dilemmas loomed large” fails to have any substance, other than hearsay.

The profession is now 57 years old in Australia and although many say it is difficult to define public relations simply because it encompasses such a broad range of philosophies and techniques, the PRIA has a simple definition: the deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics. A more detailed explanation is provided below by Dr Rex Harlow, AFR, Professor Emeritus of Stanford University and a pioneer in public relations education.

The PRIA is always open to constructive and informed opinion from members and others in the community, and is prepared to act on any suggestions to enhance the profession, the Institute, and services to members. As I said in my recent letter to members, the responsibility for change rests with all of us. It also means speaking out about what professional public relations is all about – from maintaining professional credentials and operating at the highest levels of responsibility and conduct.

Yours faithfully
Robert Masters, FPRIA
National President.

CRIKEY: We have received a flood of responses to the original article, which we will publish on the website tomorrow.

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