Perth’s oldest PR firm celebrates 21 years

Ward Holt closed the books on its 21st financial year on June 30.

Executive chairman Jim Ward said, over this time, he had witnessed the “coming of age” of public relations as a profession.

“We’ve seen a stakeholder revolution, as a result of which, constituents in an issue have far more power to influence

outcomes,” Mr Ward said.

“This has led to an awareness of the need to consult, rather than to tell. It’s given us such gems as triple bottom line reporting.”

Triple bottom line reporting has emerged as a crucial indicator of a company’s commitment to occupational health and safety, human resources and environmental concerns.

Mr Ward said today’s investor needed to be convinced that the ethics of a company were as healthy as its bottom line.

“On a day-to-day basis, this means there is much less emphasis on media publicity, due at least in part to the shrinkage in the print media,” he said.

“This is healthy, because it allows the PR function to involve itself more specifically in helping clients to consult and communicate with stakeholders.”

Mr Ward said finding good staff remained just as difficult in the new millennium.

“In the heady days of the mid-1980s, it was our practice to take on virtually any promising person who presented him or

herself to us – the work always seemed to follow,” he said.

“However, when the recession we absolutely had to have came along, big didn’t seem quite as beautiful.

“Today there is a bigger pool to fish in. It’s no longer a given that a background in journalism is an essential prerequisite.

“Increasingly, people need tertiary qualifications to snare a PR job, but the degree doesn’t necessarily have to relate to media.

“Qualifications in fields like psychology, human resources and the environment will, in many situations, be more relevant.”

Mr Ward said the preoccupation with the term “spin doctor” was an annoyance.

“It’s my pet hate, because it conjures up all the deep-rooted perceptions that PR exists just to paper over cracks,” he said.

Mr Ward predicted PR would become increasingly dominated by women.

“I think women take a more genuine and sympathetic approach to processes like public consultation and, at the moment, they are much better networked,” he said.

“We’ve backed this belief by appointing a female managing director, and most of our consultants are females.”

Mr Ward offered a final piece of advice for anyone starting out in PR who’d like to still be there in 21 years.

“I’d say maybe they should get out more.”

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