The Business Case for PR: according to whom?

Today PRSA rolled out its “Business Case for Public Relations” initiative, aimed at spit-shining the image of the PR industry and combating a lot of the misperceptions and negativity that surround the profession. The campaign includes a variety of features like resources to help articulate the value of PR to the C-suite, formation of a measurement task force to standardize measurement practices, and a newly organized collection of case studies.

I haven’t dug into all the materials yet. I’m sure there are many good tidbits in there. And frankly, as much as PR practitioners (myself included, on occasion) complain that other people “don’t get” PR or that we’re misrepresented via shows like Sex and the City that overemphasize the publicist role, at least PRSA is trying to do something about it.

But what caught my eye was the section on the Business Case section of PRSA’s Web site called “Industry Thought Leaders.” It profiles the nine individuals who were involved in the Business Case effort. Here’s what I immediately noticed about this list:

  • All are very accomplished PR professionals, with many years of experience in the field. The youngest is maybe 40-ish.
  • Seven of the nine are men.  Not exactly representative of the PR profession as a whole.
  • There’s no cultural diversity among the nine leaders (at least judging by the photos).
  • Seven of the nine are from PR agencies, most of them the big ones (H&K, Edelman, APCO, etc.). One is from corporate communication, one is from academia.

I’m sure that all nine of these people offered great insight and input into this initiative and I’m in no way knocking their individual qualifications or contributions to this effort. They have clearly differentiated themselves in the PR field. But essentially it’s a bunch of old(er) white guys from big agencies.

dartboardI would have loved to have seen a more diverse group of PR professionals involved in this effort. It would have  resonated with me more if I had looked at the list and seen more women, one or two early- or mid-career professionals, some practitioners from small boutique agencies, some non-profit and corporate communicators, and some practitioners from different ethnic backgrounds.

I don’t know how this advisory panel was chosen; whether it was self-nomination or invitation or some other process. I’m not saying that PRSA should have gone out with a pre-determined list of certain types of PR professionals and “ticked boxes” to create this group. But it causes me to wonder what else could have been included in this advocacy campaign had some more representative voices been included in the process.

Knowing and understanding your audience is one of the fundamentals of public relations. I feel like maybe PRSA missed that mark here.

What do you think?

Image via Flickr user Paul Peracchia