Martinis, mince pies and Michael Dobbs: the public affairs industry’s Christmas bash

On Thursday, the CIPR’s Public Affairs Group had its annual Christmas dinner, in Mayfair – with most of the great and the good of the industry present.

House of CardsLord Dobbs, author of the House of Cards trilogy and the late Margaret Thatcher’s chief of staff, give an entertaining and self-deprecating speech. He spoke on the importance of public affairs and also how he came to write House of Cards. After leaving Mrs T’s employment, he got to go on holiday with his wife for the first time in years. But his break was frustrated by reading a big-selling but really awful novel. His wife told him that if he thought he could do better, he ought to write one himself. He did, and it changed his life.

Simon McVicker, chairman of the Public Affairs Group, announced that he would be stepping down from running the group at the AGM after three years, to much heckling (“re-stand!”). And Gill Morris was awarded the inaugural Douglas Smith Memorial Prize for lifetime achievement in public affairs.

The food was amazing. So was the company.

Posted By: Alex Singleton, On: December 7th, 2014, In Categories: Media relations

How real public relations is different from SEO and advertising

In a new blog post, Max Tatton-Brown addresses some of the recent criticism against PR by an anonymous column at The Guardian. He writes:

For me, there are lots of disciplines hitting overlapping marketing+management areas at the moment — but what makes the difference is the background from which you’re entering that challenge. That’s where I thank God I got started in the PR world instead of the many others competing today.

We aren’t just trying to slam links out there like SEOs or fill expensive ad space. As far as I can see, the best PR was always about building growing, sustainable and valuable relationships with key people by providing something that helped them achieve their own goals.

Posted By: Alex Singleton, On: November 17th, 2014, In Categories: PR strategy

Why an ethical approach to PR is good for your career

I gave a lecture to PR undergraduates recently on ethics. I asked the students what they would do if they worked in an agency and were asked to write fake reviews for a client’s product – saying the product was excellent, but without disclosing that they were PR people rather than real customers.

The vast majority of people thought that was wrong, but a handful said they’d go right ahead. After all, they said, if they’re being paid, they should do the task.

Indeed, it was pointed out to me that on student placements in PR agencies, students are apparently often asked to do this very task.

Quite aside from the fact that this behaviour breaks professional codes of conduct, I explained that working at an agency where this sort of practice is encouraged was actually a bad career move. There are a range of core skill in public relations, one of which is being able to gain third-party endorsements. That requires thought and ability – and has contributed to the relatively high salaries that many people in PR enjoy. Conversely, anyone can write a fake review – you only have to pay them minimum wage. Or outsource the tasks abroad.

By working in a rogue agency that asks for fakery, people won’t gain the skills to get them up the career ladder. Hence, ethics and success really do go hand in hand.

P.S. I was pleased to see that the CIPR has made ethics a compulsory part of its Continuing Professional Development programme – a sound and welcome move.

Posted By: Alex Singleton, On: October 5th, 2014, In Categories: Ethics

A new blog review of The PR Masterclass

Rebecca Cotzec writes:

[The PR Masterclass] does not waste a word, with every page full of tips and suggestions. Alex Singleton also intersperses the book with his own personal experiences and antidotes, which gives the book a human feel and in some cases even acts as motivation.

One of the nice things about the book is that it gives you a real PR pro’s views on a lot of the theories and myths you’re sure to come across online. Alex Singleton’s uses the book to share personal experiences and research to suggest and warn against certain tools that a quick Google search will tell you are a must.

Posted By: Alex Singleton, On: October 1st, 2014, In Categories: PR books

One of the world’s top charity communicators on what shines through in a PR job interview

Posted By: Alex Singleton, On: August 22nd, 2014, In Categories: Corporate Comms