PR Council boss says bodies should merge before PRIA ‘implodes’

Stuart Gregor

Stuart Gregor Chair of the PRC

Chair of the Communications Council’s sub group the Public Relations Council (PRC) Stuart Gregor has called on the public relations industry to come together under the Communications Council.

Gregor made his remarks following the most recent round of infighting at the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA), which saw Mike Watson replace Terri-Helen Gaynor as national president and much of the national board of PRIA resign en masse, following the leadership change.

“We would like to talk to them as part of the Communications Council and the Public Relations Council and see what we can do,” Gregor told Mumbrella.

“We may not resolve to all fold into the PRC but we very much want to talk to everyone who is engaged in our industry as communications professionals, before someone goes off and creates another group or the PRIA effectively implodes.”

However, PRIA president Mike Watson rejected the suggestion of implosion and said no discussions had been had about merging the bodies.

The comments by Gregor, who runs public relations agency Liquid Ideas, come as speculation grows within the public relations community that allies of ousted president Terri-Helen Gaynor may seek to set up their own body, or defect to another communications-minded body.

“I have heard people talking about some PRIA members setting up another industry body,” said Gregor. “I’m not sure our industry needs that.”

“We would be very keen to have discussions with former executives of the PRIA and the former board, as well as anyone who is currently there — including the new people  — to talk about how we can work together and how we can potentially fold all these disparate groups into something that could potentially come under the Communications Council umbrella,” he said.

“The Communications Council already represents the interests of most people in the communications industry.”

Watson rebuffed Gregor’s suggestion telling Mumbrella: “We haven’t had a chance to talk, but far from imploding we are ‘business as usual’, our state and territory divisions are meeting and there is a lot of vibrancy within the membership that I’m hearing.

“The PRIA represents individuals, while the Communications Council represents commercial marketing agencies and its membership is generally large companies.”

The PRC was established in 2012 and includes a number of Australia’s biggest consumer public relations focused agencies in its membership. Other groups that could potentially be part of a PR merger is the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) which, at the time of posting, had not responded to requests for comment. *See update below for comment.

Watson said PRIA was happy to work with the PRC, and its parent body the Communications Council, on areas “where our interests overlap” but said he felt there were “distinct differences” between the two groups.

” As we said yesterday it is ‘business as usual’ for us,” he said.  “We have a wide diversity of members who are interested in consumer (PR) and marketing communications and a lot of them do that sort of stuff. However, we also represent other specialist interests within the communication industry — not (just) the communications industry.”

Yesterday the PRIA issued a call for PRIA members to step up and fill vacancies on the state and national level.

Watson also told Mumbrella this morning that a scheduled February 18 board meeting might have to be delayed by a week after certain states had been “dumped” by their state presidents.

“I have to give state and territory divisions time to transition their membership, said Watson. “I mean some of them have been dumped without a state president. They now have to find a new state president and a new state representative for the national board and that takes a little bit of time.”

“At this stage (the board meeting) might move out a week, I’m not really sure,” he said.

PRC chair Gregor acknowledged that there are clear differences between the various bodies but said he was confident the public relations community could work together to overcome its differences.

“We understand that the public relations industry is diverse and there are often competing agendas between consumer agencies, like ours, and internal comms people or corporate affairs people,” said Gregor.

“But we actually think we can be stronger together and given these recent ructions it is a good time for all of us to sit down and talk. It is not doing the PR industry any favours having this sought of carry-on.”

Gaynor declined to comment.

UPDATE: IABC NSW board member Patrick Southam told Mumbrella this afternoon that he could not see the various communications groups coming together and that the PRC was not capable of representing the whole PR industry.

“It won’t happen,” said Southam, “at the end of the day members don’t care about all these machinations.”

“It’s all good for Stuart Gregor to say wouldn’t it be great if you all came and joined us. But my understanding of the PRC is that it is largely an agency based organisation, consumer PR agency and that, and it is entirely unrepresentative of the broader communications industry,” he said.

“In terms of the IABC we are focused on providing good services to our members.”

Nic Christensen


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