Fewer than one third of British politicians believe that the Bell Pottinger scandal was an isolated case of PR industry malpractice, a new survey has revealed.
The survey, which was conducted by Populus as part of a bi-monthly poll of our 121 person MP Panel, also found that almost four in ten members of Parliament (38 per cent) believe that the public relations industry should be more tightly regulated. Indeed, only one in five (22 per cent) believes that the industry does a good job of regulating itself while just 21 per cent trust it to do so.
Our analysis also found that Conservative politicians have a more favourable opinion of public relations. While 55 per cent of MPs believe the industry makes a positive contribution to the wider economy, the figures drops to just 42 per cent when the answers are restricted to Labour responses. By contrast, seven in ten Conservative politicians believe the industry makes a positive contribution.
Labour politicians are also sceptical about the suggestion that the Bell Pottinger scandal was an isolated incident. Just 13 per cent perceive this to be the case while only eight per cent trust the industry to behave responsibly.
Indeed, six in ten Labour politicians believe that the PR industry should be more tightly regulated, but only 18 per cent of Conservative politicians share that view. Only eight per cent of Labour politicians and one in three (35 per cent) of Conservative politicians believe the industry does a good job of regulating its own behaviour.
The industry should not underestimate the importance of trust – where it scores poorly – to reputation. Populus’ wider corporate work has consistently found that perceptions of trustworthiness and responsible behaviour are critical in determining how strong or weak a company or sector’s reputation is. And, as energy companies have found, legislators can and will intervene if they do not believe a sector is capable of policing its own behaviour.