What does ‘public relations’ look like?

If you don’t work in the industry/profession, it probably looks like the late Tim Bell.

Bell, and the Saatchis, working behind the scenes to influence governments or creating those big-ticket campaigns we all remember, provided the template for what public relations means in the public consciousness. The real-life versions of Charles Prentiss and Martin McCabe from Absolute Power.

That said, we can probably each think of at least one PR practitioner who thinks that they are the next (or even current) Tim Bell…

Those who actually do work in PR know that the profession looks more like the late Carol Rennard, known to many as Carol Arthur: among many things, formerly of Quest PR and Northern Lights PR, former journalist and my pre-predecessor as Chair of CIPR Yorkshire & Lincolnshire.

She wouldn’t be the first person non-PR people would think of as a PR person. Not a white, besuited bloke, for one thing.

But Carol was absolutely representative of our modern profession/industry. Her work was conducted in an ethical, professional and responsible manner. She was widely respected, always available for anyone searching for advice, guidance or just answers (and not only about public relations).

Photo: PRide Award winners Iincluding me) on-stage in 2010.
PRide Award winners on-stage in 2010.

She somehow roped me in to deliver a session as part of a course she’d helped develop at Northern Lights to bring more young black and Asian people into public relations. I’ve no idea what I contributed but it won a PRide Award (see photograph) so that was all right.

She willingly gave her time and skills to charitable endeavours, was committed to the region and she only really slowed down when she became too ill to keep working.

As family and friends attested to at her service yesterday, she was just lovely.

There are many more Carols than Tims out there, and I think it’s about time we celebrated them while they’re still alive, promoted their work, their career and life stories. They don’t all rise to the giddy heights of immediate media or cultural recognition, but they are the people who should be influencing the next generation, the ones who set the standards to meet (if not exceed).

I feel an idea coming on…