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Sun 12 Jun 2005 04:00 AM

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Campaign ME Newsletter 12th June 05

So why doesn’t anybody seem to like PRs? Last Monday I spent a few hours in a room full of them, yet emerged without my trouser pocket having been picked.

PR incompetence is the real issue, not image|~||~||~|So why doesn’t anybody seem to like PRs? Last Monday night I spent a few hours in a room full of them, yet emerged without my trouser pocket having been picked, so perhaps they aren’t all bad.

The occasion was an event organised by MEPRA, the Middle East Public Relations Association, as a chance for journalists to meet the spin-doctors. It was good timing. As our columnist Alexander McNabb writes on page 14 of today’s print edition, there is generally little respect on either side. It is also an issue we explore in our Live Issue analysis on page 15.

It seems somewhat ironic that of all the professions to have an image problem, it should be public relations. Of anyone, they should be the ones to have the skills to do something about it.

But in this region, PRs generally don’t respect their fellow practitioners. The consensus seems to be “My company’s good, but everyone else is rubbish.”

In the last week alone, I’ve heard anecdotes of agencies keeping business by giving backhanders to the client, journalists being bribed to run stories, plus many tales of laziness and incompetence. And these stories are mainly coming from the PRs themselves.

The problem is that there are few barriers to entry if you want to set yourself up in PR. All you need is a computer and a phone. You don’t necessarily need to be good or have a track record. No wonder the end product is often so weak.

Yet agencies will only be as good as the market allows them to be. For improvements, it takes clients demanding to pay by real results, such as media coverage and improvement to reputation, rather than fluff like the number of hacks who turn up to hear platitudes at a press conference.

It also needs an effort from the industry itself, which is why the work of MEPRA should be praised for attempting to promote best practice.

But as any good PR will tell you, the image problem will only improve when the quality of PR does.||**||

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