PR'S Professionalism Is Putting Advertising Agencies to Shame

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PR agencies are investing heavily in their people and planning for the future

I will surely be hung, drawn and quartered by the entire Council of the IPA for this column, but I am beginning to wonder whether PR agencies are not now superseding ad agencies in both management skills and clients' corridors of power.

As an ex-president of the IPA and lifetime adman I advance this seditious thesis having just been involved in judging the Institute of Public Relation's Excellence Awards for the second year running. Last year the same disloyal thought briefly flitted through my mind; this year it has lodged there immovably.

The particular category I judged which brought the message home was the 'Outstanding achievement by a public relations consultancy' award. To win this coveted gong, PR agencies had to produce a report detailing their achievements in the previous year, showing how they have evaluated those achievements, and saying what differentiates them from other PR agencies.

There is no equivalent competition among advertising agencies. Maybe there should be. The only IPA gongs are the Advertising Effectiveness Awards, which -- while excellent in themselves -- do a totally different job.

Naturally the reports entered for the trophy are, to put it gently, a tad self-congratulatory. Nobody ever accused PR folk of being backward in coming forward. But the agencies know that if they reach the shortlist they will be quizzed about their performances by independent judges -- of which I was but one -- and that agencies who simply bullshit, however high-class their bullshitting, are unlikely to come out smelling of roses. …