A PUBLIC relations executive has called for greater recognition of the profession in the face of growing indifference by the business community. Sarah Woods said that public relations was still considered to be a 'non-profession' by some and its practitioners were usually left out of top management decisions. Ms Woods, a director for corporate affairs consultants Forrest International and head of the 165-member Hong Kong chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), said the body intended to act on these perceptions. The group wants more recognition within the business community, more education opportunities and a recognised standard of practice for the entire industry. 'Communicators are usually brought in at the last stage of the decision process when strategies have been formulated,' she said. 'When that happens, we don't know the the whole story behind the strategy. 'That makes it difficult to go out and explain the story [to the media and the public] because you have only a piece of the information. There is likely more information you could have used.' With more companies competing internationally, Ms Woods said there was a great need for training. 'Keeping people informed on all sides is the value of it,' she said. The 165-member group is a chapter of the United States-based organisation (there are 12,500 members in 40 countries). At one of their recent seminars the topic was conducting public relations in China. 'A lot of what we do is learning and developing. While we do learn from experiences in business, we also have speakers and gain from their experiences,' Ms Woods said. Due to lack of training for public relations personnel in Hong Kong, the IABC recently appointed Ric Ruidl, educational adviser with the Hong Kong Baptist University communications department, to its board as an adviser. 'We have a number of students interested in the IABC,' she said. 'Some of our members have already volunteered to work with them. 'We will be offering internships and sponsorship, so students can attend IABC events for free, or at a subsidised rate,' she said. Another development the group would like to establish is a standardised code of practice for the public relations industry. While the IABC has its own code of ethics, it does not cover the entire industry. Ms Woods said she would like to see unethical practices, such as lai see payments to journalists in China, stopped. 'People who are IABC members should follow this code. 'And, in Hong Kong, where there is no fixed code, it is worrying because the whole scope of communications can change before 1997. It is something we should be pushing for,' she said.