Magazine article Marketing

Putting PR on a Proper Footing

Magazine article Marketing

Putting PR on a Proper Footing

Article excerpt

The PR industry has been slow lo sell itself. Stephanie France reports on a PR event to change all that

It is a running joke in the PR industry that PR practitioners are hopeless at publicising their own profession. Whereas other industries promote themselves through exhibitions and events, the PR industry lacks an annual forum where agency and in-house practitioners, suppliers and PR associations can meet.

Organisers of the PR Showcase hope the three-day exhibition and conference, running from July 5-7, will provide such an opportunity. PR Showcase is at London's Royal Horticultural Halls and Conference Centre, and is organised by RJA Events.

Managing director Richard John believes an event of this nature is long overdue."There was a similar show in 1985 called PR Index, but since then the concept has been allowed to die."

The idea was first taken to Hollis and The Guardian, both of which got. involved. John then approached the PR trade associations, all of which decided to come on board, except the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC).

"There is a real need for PR Showcase," says John. "The suppliers have nothing else to go to. Take Jupiter Display, for example. It builds exhibition stands and, while it can go directly to clients,a lot of work comes from small PR agencies who are project managing on behalf of their clients. The exhibition is an ideal way to meet them."

Knowledge provision

But what's in it for PR practitioners themselves? The biggest hook should be the 60 seminars, delivered by a series of high-profile speakers.

Keynote speakers will include Fran Cassidy, marketing director of Carlton TV, who will be discussing what companies do and don't want from PR. Chris Genasi, head of the corporate division at Shandwick Welbeck, will look at how PR directors can protect their reputation and build a competitive edge, while Mark Westaby, managing director of Metrica, will consider the role of PR planning and how it can be used to develop more effective PR programmes. In addition, freelance journalist and editor Annie Gurton will explore the hidden agendas of journalists.

A number of sideshows have also been devised to add fun. These include a Scalextric Championship, an internet cafe, reception and evening networking parties, and media training from Media Master.

There will be around 70 exhibitors at PR Showcase, including press clipping bureau Romeike & Curtice, media directory supplier Mediadisk, broadcast consultant Radio Lynx and media training and video production consultancy Hillside Studios.

Jean Gurteen, head of training at Hillside Studios, says: "In the past we've gone to training and personnel-type exhibitions. They were too low level and more about internal training than media training."

Gurteen sees the event as an opportunity to increase awareness. She hopes to meet heads of in-house PR departments and account managers and directors at agency level looking for media training services for their clients.

The event is sponsored by Hollis Directories and supported by The Guardian, AdCity, Showcase Communications and Mediadisk. Endorsement comes from the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA), ICO, International Public Relations Association (IPRA),The Public Relations Standards Council (PRSC), and the Institute of Public Relations (IPR).

According to Chris McDowall, director-general of the PRCA, recruitment is not the reason for the PRCA's involvement with PR Showcase. He sees it as an opportunity for the industry to come together and speak with one voice.

"PR has a terrible PR problem. …

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