PR is all about substance, whatever McBride says

I was at the PRCA Future of PR summit last week. 

There was plenty of talk about the changing face of our industry, the emergence of analytics, data and the digital world as key elements of the PR repertoire. 

But those talks that i enjoyed most still spoke of storytelling, of reputation and substance. 

The new Head of Corporate Comms for Barclays, Stephen Doherty, talked about the challenge he faces in his role with one of the most high profile banks in the UK.

Barclays has had its fair share of detractors over recent years and Doherty was keen to underline the importance of working with the decision-makers to ensure that there was real truth to any pledges and promises that the company chose to make.

"By your deeds shall you be known" as he put it, quoting the bible.

And he is right.  

PR consultants have a reputation for spinning, for exaggeration or telling untruths and while I defy anyone who works in the industry to claim that they have not over egged the pudding at one time or another, so to speak.

But when I moved from journalism to PR, I wanted to retain the values that I had been brought up with - to tell the truth, to be honest and to retain integrity at all times.

And that's why I have such a problem with the new autobiography by former Labour spin doctor Damian McBride .

His book is full of admissions of smear campaigns, lies, manipulations and betrayals that give our industry a bad name - and reinforce commonly held misconceptions.

The great irony of PR, as has been written on this blog before, is that we are very good at helping and promoting the reputation of our clients but not very good at underlining our own value.

It goes back to what Stephen Doherty said. In the end, people will stop believing your proclamations and empty promises if that is all they are.

PR consultants work at the highest level with CEOs and MDs to advise on strategy, to ensure that they shape the culture and strategy of their clients and thus can educate stakeholders from a position of authenticity. 

McBride does the industry a tremendous disservice and I do hope readers of his revelations can identify the difference between a spin doctor in a political regime and professional PR consultant who adhere to strict codes of conduct and seek to maintain the highest standards of professional integrity.