Nigel Heneghan Speech: Awards for Excellence in Public Relations 2013

An extract from the speech of Nigel Heneghan, Chairman of PRCA from the Awards for Excellence in Public Relations on 21st June 2013:

“Looking down the list of short-listed entries for today’s awards, you will notice a great diversity of organisations – private sector, public sector, global companies and indigenous Irish, manufacturers and service companies, public utility, sporting, entertainment and FMCG.

Each of the short-listed organisations here today cares deeply about its reputation and the product or service it provides. You understand the role that both public relations and strategic communications have in serving your objective of creating awareness or simply just maintaining the status quo of an existing good reputation.

Across the board, the public relations sector has experienced the negative impact of the recession. While the consultancy sector has been impacted more seriously than the in-house sector, the latter has had its challenges too.  In our most recent health-check survey carried out a couple of years ago, the estimated value of the consultancy sector in Ireland was fifty million euro.  While this has no doubt contracted in the intervening period, there are now signs of a recovery. The level of new business opportunity, requests to tender or for proposals is showing a marked increase in the current year.

But from the outset of the recession there have been organisations who understand the value of public relations and who continued to invest strongly, and I would say wisely, in public relations.  Many of them are represented here today.

In a challenging market environment the customer has the ability to set the price. It is up to the supplier, if it wishes, to respond.  Often there is a negotiation and compromise.  But I believe it is important to make a clear distinction between price and value. 

Warren Buffet gets it.  He said:  “Price is what you pay, value is what you get.”  When it comes to value, as public relations professionals,   we need to put thought into focusing more on what in fact  it  is we do, and not what we cost.

Our work is about reputation; internally or externally, advising organisations in terms of the creation, maintenance and sometimes the recovery of their reputation.  I would suggest an organisation has nothing, if it does not have a reputation. Good reputation is not a product of public relations, but it comes directly from organisations themselves; what they do; how they are managed; and the good they do in society or in the community. Reputation grows from the inside out. Our role in public relations is that of advocate.

It is, as everyone here knows, the function of strategic communications and public relations to ensure that an organisation’s stakeholders have not just awareness, but also an understanding of its activities. That is where our strategic and tactical expertise, our knowledge of communications channels, and creative ability come to the fore. This event, the Awards for Excellence in Public Relations is about best-practise examples across these areas.

What we do is central to the success of organisations. I would suggest as equally important, if not more so than other professional service providers, particularly so, in this instant-news era of image, reputation and brand equity.  So with that, I believe there should be a much greater focus, not on cost, but on the value as public relations professionals that we bring to our clients or to our employers.

We must create that distinction between price and value. As a sector and profession we need to highlight our value, and we need to learn to become relentless in reinforcing that message.”