PR has a job to do…making taboo topics OK to talk about

How many of you have seen the recent news about ‘period leave’ for women or shy away from mental health issues such as self harming and suicide? Probably a lot of us.

The truth is, as times have changed, we are more open to talking more openly about what used to be considered a ‘private matter’, which would normally either be brushed under the carpet or people were told they would grow out of it. It wasn’t until the 90’s that people started openly discuss being gay and in the last 10 years celebrities and high profile people went public.

Woman zippering mouth closed

Cancer used to be a taboo subject and people felt awkward around people who talked about it or indeed had it.

As we see an increase in campaigns and people trying to raise awareness of subjects such as mental health it’s becoming more normal to talk and indeed support ’causes’.

Public relations has a job to do, to help raise awareness of some taboo topics. It’s only by educating people and raising awareness of the issues, that people will watch out for triggers, know the signs, support someone in need and essentially, help address some of the biggest issues out there. Many of which people are still oblivious to or think it doesn’t affect them.

Giving people a platform, such as blogging, has certainly helped. There’s one particular example I’m familiar with. This person is known as The Tartan Explorer, a global ambassador for mental health awareness, his name is Josh Quigley. Josh makes it his mission to ‘eradicate suicide from society’. In HRZone, he gives his personal account of his suicide attempt.  Read it here.

The Scottish Government delivered See Me, which aims to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination. There are many other organisations out there trying to do the same thing, but what we need to do is use PR for social good. Two great blogs were recently posted on The PRofessionals blog, by Ann Rowe and Dan Slee.

Ann says ‘PR for social good’ is PR with a conscience. Dan talks about magic dust, and says you need three things;

Firstly, you need to be a militant optimist, you need to speak truth to power and lastly you shouldn’t be confined by the limits of ‘PR’.

Why a militant optimist? David Barrie coined this phrase back in 2010 when he looked at the 13 tribes of civic life. What binds many of them together is a belief that there can and must be a better place. If social good is the magic dust the militant optimist is the person who tries to scatter this in places where it’s needed. When the social web was in its infancy these were the people in local government, the voluntary sector or central government who were trying things out at the risk of their career because they could see it was a better way of doing things.

Why speak truth to power? Because it’s the role of the PR and comms team to challenge and ask a question. It always has been.

Why not be limited to just ‘PR’? Because as the role of PR and communications changes there’s a debate to be had over how relevant the title even is any more. Talk. Listen. Ask. Share the sweets and allow others the ability to use digital comms to talk to people.

So, you see, PR can have an impact and it can do social good. What’s the social good in the projects you’re working on?

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Blog post by Laura Sutherland.

Laura is a Chartered Practitioner and Fellow of the CIPR.

Image credit: (women zipping mouth)