There is an interesting article in the current issue of PR Week which look at how PR practitioners have been portrayed on TV and the effect which this has on the public’s perception of us.
Mention Government communications and many people will automatically think of Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of It. Anyone who worked with or closely observed the Government’s communications machine during the New Labour years will find Tucker an all too believable character. In a classic example of life imitating art, Malcolm Tucker was responsible for the word omnishambles entering common usage. Although my accent is similar to Tucker, I would like to think that I don’t share his trademark fondness for imaginative profanities.
More recently, Twenty Twelve (and sequel W1A) has introduced us to Siobhan Sharpe, the supremely confident but completely useless PR consultant who talks entirely in meaningless clichés. Again, a character who many of us will feel is all too recognisable.
It seems to me that this ties in with the debate which has been going on recently about the lack of diversity in PR. The problem is not just the lack of people from minority ethnic groups in PR (although that is unquestionably an issue that needs to be addressed), but also the fact that people from the lower social and economic groups are too often excluded and ignored. It’s hardly surprising that the leading London PR consultancies are stuffed full of privately educated young things called Arabella and Henry when an unpaid internship seems to be the only entry route into these firms.
Public sector communications teams are certainly a bit more diverse; can you seriously imagine a young Malcolm Tucker working as in intern? However I still think that more needs to be done to recruit talent from a much wider pool. The PR industry, rather like the coalition Government, needs to be more representative of the society which it serves.