I’m not sure whether it comes as a result of the infamous Malcolm Tucker, the concept of ‘spin’, or Siobhan, the desperately embarrassing PR girl from the BBC satire W1A, but all too often the public relations industry seems to be falsely cast as the villain of the piece.
One of the more recent cases of PR (or rather, PR spend) being unfairly stigmatised, has come with the Government’s management of its flagship Green Deal energy saving scheme. Now, there are a number of reasons why the Green Deal is yet to set the world alight, yet any reports of the scheme’s return on investment always seem to go hand-in-hand with a totting-up of just how much has been spent – or wasted, as seems to be the assumption – on PR.
The irony is, here we have a scheme which, to quote a colleague of mine, “is like nothing this country has ever seen before”. Surely PR is the perfect vehicle to communicate just how the Green Deal could transform the UK’s inefficient housing stock? After all, how can UK homeowners be expected to take advantage of the finance on offer to improve their properties without having the scheme explained to them? A well-planned PR strategy should be the perfect fit for the Green Deal, yet to the contrary, it’s being used as a stick to beat the scheme’s administrators over the head with.
The point here is, there can be any number of reasons why a product or service fails before we even look at PR. In this case, we can take our pick from the red tape preventing the UK’s heating engineers from becoming suitably accredited, to the fact that renewable technologies are simply too expensive to install in this country. But none of these real issues are perceived by the media as being anything close to as alarming as the Government’s spend on PR. Instead we’re forced to read reports of how the Government has wasted over £100k on PR advisors. That’s a whopping 0.3 per cent of the total spend, by the way.
Will the PR industry ever shake off this misplaced assumption that a communication strategy is nothing other than an overpriced luxury? Credibility is one of PR’s main assets and credit should be given where it’s due from time to time.