Edinburgh hosts fourth #PRFest, the world’s only festival for public relations

Laura Sutherland
Laura Sutherland

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The fourth #PRFest, the world’s only festival dedicated to the public relations profession, took place in Edinburgh last week.

The two-day event attracted public relations and communication professionals from across the world, both as speakers and attendees.

Laura Sutherland, who runs PR consultancy Aura PR, founded the event in 2016, stating that she “was frustrated at the perception of the industry, wrongly portrayed by a few bad sorts, and the lack of innovation and modernisation, given the development of technology and how we communicate with our audiences”.

In recent years the public relations industry has been criticised for individuals conducting unethical behaviour but Sutherland says it’s a minority. “Sadly, and ironically, the likes of Max Clifford and the unethical work of Bell Pottinger has given public relations a bad reputation. It’ll take us years to reverse this. The CIPR’s State of the Profession report states that the sixth challenge we face as an industry, is unethical practice.

“PRFest sets out to clearly help practitioners modernise their work, but it also sets out to help practitioners get better at making sound ethical choices, giving clients and organisations ethical advice and fully supports main sponsor, the PRCA’s, Code of Conduct.

“One of our challenges is there is no barrier to entry to work in public relations, which means anyone can say they practice it, but the most respected of our profession are getting Chartered, demonstrating to organisations and clients that there are professional standards. Organisations appointing personnel in public relations and communication need to consider this in recruitment and agencies and industry leaders need to be encouraging professional development throughout career progression.

“This situation isn’t just about one person or one organisation, it’s about the whole industry demonstrating best practice, robust measurement and evaluation and proving why we are the trusted advisors we say we are.

“The CIPR’s State of the Profession report reported that the second biggest challenge we faced in the industry, was under-representation at a board level. It’s no coincidence since the report also states that no.3 says PR is not seen as a professional discipline, which means PR is not deemed essential. If you then correlate that with the ‘activities most commonly undertaken in current job’, you’ll notice the most critical skills in research, evaluation and measurement, strategic planning, defining mission/values, corporate governance don’t even reach the top four.

I came up with the idea of PRFest to help be a part of the solution, and in particular, bring something to Scotland, rather than all the big events being held in London. Scotland has a wealth of amazing talent in public relations and communication, as do many other areas outside the London bubble.”

Speakers included Dr Amanda Holdsworth, a senior PR Director from Canada, Andy Barr, CEO of 10Yetis and an SEO guru, Sara Hawthorn who is leading the way for disability in PR, Kerry Sheehan who is focussed on exploring and learning about #AIinPR and Lisa Imlach, Global PR and Communications Director for Skyscanner.

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