Secret PR Skills no.1 – Health & Safety

James Regal, senior account manager, Clarion Communications

Permission forms. Risk assessments. Method statements. Council permits. Hardly words that inspire one to push boundaries with daring PR ideas. That’s because cutting-edge consumer PR is sexy and dangerous, right?  Guerrilla stunts, giant outdoor installations and messing about with the general public are some of the mainstays of the best PR campaigns of the past decade.

Yet what they don’t tell you at PR School is that in order to pull off some of these wild and creative ideas, you are going to have to become a reluctant expert in the world of “‘elf ‘n safety”.  In my relatively short career I have worked on some brilliantly imaginative campaigns, many of which involved negotiating mountains of bureaucratic paperwork and placating officious H&S representatives with reassuring half-truths (I won’t mention the former agency where I was asked, as a junior account exec, to adapt an old university ball risk assessment for a public PR event in Hyde Park).

In order to successfully pull off any kind of public event or stunt, today’s PR needs to know their trip hazards from their food hygiene certificates, and be prepared to act as the designated ‘responsible person’ whenever called upon. No matter how bland and innocent an inanimate object is, rest assured there is someone who will find thirty-five different ways it could kill you.

With all this red tape, it’s no surprise that some PRs subscribe to the notion that it’s sometimes better to ask forgiveness than permission.

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