Friday, 26 April 2013

Is PR part of the 'creative economy'? Probably not

It's noticeable that PR bodies haven't rushed to comment or even acknowledge the 'Manifesto for the Create Economy' which was published by innovation charity NESTA on April 23.

This challenging document starts from the claim that the 'creative economy' provides 10% of gross added value to the national economy, employs 2.5 millions people and grows faster than most other sectors.

Its message that Britain is falling behind international competition is one that we should heed. The report says that policies in the UK have failed to keep pace with developments in North America and Asia.

Among its 10 actions points are:

  • policies to incentivise innovation in ways that suit the creative industries
  • the adaptation of copyright laws to "digital realities"
  • broadened research programmes, with greater investment in knowledge-exchange
  • changes in education to create a  "fusion" covering technology, art, maths, science and the humanities
  • greater involvement in the digital economy by publicly funded creative leaders like the BBC and museums
  • a more open internet sphere, with less control by a few major players

At the launch of the report Lord (David) Putman argued there was a mismatch between skills needed to drive the creative industries and the learning of current graduates, while Skillset chief executive Kate O'Connor said universities should do more to teach entrepreneurial skills.

I agree with them in many ways but no-one in the PR industry has come to my colleagues and me to offer that advice. The only common feedback is that graduates "have to write well".  I would like more teaching on management and entrepreneurial skills and have been working in that direction for the past 3-4 years. This report gives me greater confidence to develop this element of learning further.

But it worries me (and here's a cue for CIPR presidential candidates Stephen Waddington and Jon White as well as PRCA's leadership) is that the public relations sector has taken no part in the general debate on the creative sector which has been developing for the past decade. It certainly has no voice (or even recognition) in the NESTA report.

Why is it important for PR to be involved? Firstly because the creative economy is where the sector should be positioning itself; secondly because the ideas from this report will probably shape policy no matter which government is in power; thirdly because while PR still replicates old models of operation, the rest of the creative sector is developing creative clusters at local and regional level to drive its innovation, employment development and growth. "Communities of practice" produce innovation and employment across media, digital, animation and VFX sectors. It's time for PR to go down that route, too.

You can download the report from: http://www.nesta.org.uk/publications/assets/features/a_manifesto_for_the_creative_economy