Yesterday the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) announced that it was going to make its membership list public – with no opt out. At a stroke the importance of membership and the code of conduct that goes with it was elevated. On the same day publicist Max Clifford took the lectern as keynote speaker at The CIPR’s Northern Conference in Leeds. In building the reputation of the PR industry we scored an amazing goal then almost instantly put one into our own net.
My argument is simple. The reputation of PR as a profession is at best average. No individual has done more to shape the public’s impression of PR than Max Clifford, though Joanna Lumley and Jenifer Saunders have come close. Clifford trades in deceit, he says so himself. He also says that he spends most of his time keeping people out of the press. We’ve seen with Jimmy Savile how dangerous it can be when the media is deflected from scrutinising the abusive behaviour of powerful people. The media constantly calls on Max Clifford to speak on behalf of the PR industry. The chartered body tasked with promoting the PR profession needs to be challenging the idea that Max represents the industry – not promoting him as a keynote speaker at an annual conference.
Max is persuasive and charismatic, his media klout is phenomenal but he laughs at the idea that PR people should have ethics. It’s a very dangerous combination. Let’s find new voices to represent PR.