The UK organisation currently known as the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) is about to make a decision to change its name - even considering dispensing with the words ‘Public Relations’.
This is a plea to keep the epithet ‘Public Relations’ for its own self-interest and for the wider good of the profession - and the world at large.
For its own self-interest retaining ‘Public Relations’ preserves its acronym and most common usage of its title - ‘the PRCA’.
Neither do you need a crystal ball to predict that at some point, in the not-too-distant future, there is going to have to be a debate about whether there should be a merger between the two organizations operating within the UK public relations sector - the PRCA and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. The PRCA retaining the ‘Public Relations’ part of its name facilitates any future marriage.
It is understandable that an organization formed in 1969 recognized the need to reflect the fact that it was no longer limited to just those working as consultants. ‘Consultants’ has to go.
Yet, the advent of integrated communications, with the blurring of the lines between different communications disciplines such as advertising, brand management and digital marketing could tempt a forward-looking strategist to adopt ‘Professional Communicators’ as a catch-all theme.
This would be fundamentally wrong.
Firstly, there is still a lot of life in the PR dog yet.
Yes, there is a flat-lining in the search words on Google for ‘public relations’. Yet these searches dwarf any rival searches for ‘Integrated Communications’, ‘Content Marketing’ or other terms.
Also, by asserting the qualities public relations possess that other communication s disciplines cannot deliver or match, is the way forward for public relations to give itself a new lease of life.
Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman identified five heuristics’, or what I call ‘Brand Heuristics’, that steer people to say ‘Yes’ if something is known, liked, trusted, front-of-mind, and others are talking about it.
All integrated communications such as advertising, brand management, digital marketing and public relations work towards these heuristics with their goals of ensuring something is known, liked, trusted, front-of-mind and others are talking about it.
Yet PR has more in its locker. It potentially is the lead discipline in five key capabilities:
2. Advising on a Brand’s authentic actions
3. Managing the corporate story
4. Building social capital
5. Earning trust
As a result it delivers five key outcomes in brand reputation, relationships, earned influence, more powerful narratives and greater capability to collaborate.
If the PR profession can get its act together to highlight these key roles and outcomes it can outflank rival disciplines to secure a competitive advantage over them.
It won’t be able to do this however, if we abrogate our name where ‘public relations allows itself to be subsumed within integrated communications.
Lastly, the world needs public relations to survive. Indeed, it will be a crucial tool for the survival of humankind.
Society faces many great challenges and threats. A healthy, vibrant public relations discipline is a crucial tool to enable different groups or tribes to connect, co-operate and collaborate. Without this, humankind is screwed.
Whether our race can succeed will be down to how well the public relations function can work to preserve, build, and nurture its connectivity, co-operation, and collaboration capital.
Over dramatic claims? I genuinely believe not.
If public relations does diminish or die it will be as a result of a 1001 cuts. And the PRCA, should it choose to forsake ‘public relation’ could just be one of those cuts.
So an appeal to the PRCA, please, in your own narrow, specific interest keep the ‘Public Relations’ in your name. And for the sake of the profession - and for the future of humankind - by casting your vote, endorsing PR could propel it to a better, more competitive and successful future.