13 SEPTEMBER 1997, Page 31

Sir: Your leader (6 September) blames the image problems of

the royal family on their `concession' to the nebulous villain of 'PR values'. Public relations does not impose a value per se: it is, according to the Institute of Public Relations (on whose Council I sit) the 'planned and sustained effort to estab- lish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its public'. In the case of the royal family this is no mean feat: the desire for the 'con- tinuity' you express is simply at odds with the largest public of them all, the general public. Even to stand firm against changing opinion requires strategy and tactics.

Strategy? Tactics? Surely I mean dumb- ing down, spinning, or that non-existent verb people insist on using, PR-ing. (When I enthuse at dinner parties about why I am fascinated and animated by public relations I receive baffled looks and occasionally out- right pity. I can now look forward to shar- ing `P-word' experiences with that other cultural pariah, the photographer.

As Edward Bernays, the founding father So what about my bald patch?' of much modern public relations, wrote in 1947, 'The engineering of consent is the very essence of the democratic process, the freedom to persuade and suggest.' The public will decide. But relations with that public are all-important and not to be sneered at.

Julia Hobsbawn

Hobsbawm Macaulay Communications Ltd, 28 Poland Street, London W1