Chris Savage tells PRC boss Stuart Gregor to back off PRIA and co-operate

LR: Alex Hayes, Stuart Gregor, Chris Savage

LR: Alex Hayes, Stuart Gregor, Chris Savage

Respected PR veteran and chief operating officer of STW Group Chris Savage has told the chairman of Public Relations Council (PRC) Stuart Gregor to stop “having a go” at the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) and urged the two organisations to work together.

The comments came in a forthright exchange between the pair during the Question Time session at the CommsCon conference in Sydney yesterday, which also saw Gregor admit that the “first conversations” about a possible expansion of the PRC to include former members of PRIA, expanding to a broader membership beyond its traditional base of 35 consumer PR agencies.

It follows Gregor calling for industry bodies PRIA and the PRC to merge after last month’s ousting of former national president Terri-Helen Gaynor and the mass resignation of the PRIA national board.

During a lively exchange Savage issued his challenge telling Gregor: “I love the PR Council, we support it and we will do everything we can to support it, and I love the PRIA and my challenge to you Stuart, with all your talent and all your energy, is stop having a go at the PRIA.”

Savage was on the Question Time panel as PRIA’s representative after the recently elected national president Mike Watson was forced to withdraw from the panel, citing work pressures.

“Should all (the industry bodies) come under one umbrella? If we’re honest and we all took our hats off I think everyone would agree that that should be the case,” said Gregor.

“Should it be the PRC, PRIA or some third entity that is an amalgam of the two, possibly. And would I like to put things in train for that to happen? Absolutely. Will it happen? Yes I think so.”

Asked whether he had put such a move “in train” Gregor admitted “the first conversations have been had”. Mumbrella understands these meetings have involved former PRIA board members, while it is also understood Gregor has been unable to make contact with Watson, despite making several phone calls.

In the face of Savage’s challenge Gregor said he did not want to attack the rival body, adding they wanted a constructive relationship, leading moderator, Mumbrella editor Alex Hayes to quip: “What’s next for you two, world peace?”

“If one can sort peace between PRIA and PRC then one can sort Syria,” replied Gregor.

Savage yesterday also elaborated on the “revolution” that occurred last month at PRIA describing it as a useful change catalyst for the organisation. Until last month the organisation had been presenting as “business as usual”. 

“One of the reasons I decided to get back involved in the PRIA is that I have been extremely concerned and irritated about what I have been reading in the trade press about the battle that has been going on,” said Savage, who is himself a PRIA member and a former CEO of Ogilvy PR. “I don’t like it and I don’t think it does anyone any good.

“The good thing that happened was that there was a revolution within the PRIA, there is a new leadership, there is renewed vigour and I’m very impressed with the momentum that is happening with the PRIA. They will get better. They know they’ve got to get more engaged, deliver better value, they have to get more contemporary and meet more of the needs of its members.”

Asked what the upcoming agenda for PRIA was, and what he believed it should be, Savage responded: “The job of president is taken by a highly energetic smart guy who has my 100 per cent support and he is going to revolutionise this organisation.

“I think the organisation had drifted, I know they’ve now had two board meetings in a short space of time, there is new leadership and they have a very tight agenda. I’m not close enough to it yet to know specifically what is on that agenda but I am going to find out.

“(I think it should be) about training and development, its about protecting the regulatory environment that we operate in ”

Nic Christensen 


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