Having written here for eight years, you will forgive me a moment of reflection. Since 2005 the British PR business has come a long way. A CIPR report that year estimated the value of the industry to be £6.5bn. The Census, commissioned by PRWeek/PRCA in 2011, adjusted this to £7.5bn. And with close to double-digit growth since then, the industry is worth at least £8bn today.
Crucially, since the mid-noughties, PR has gained prominence as an employer of talent and a vital discipline within marketing departments, business and government, despite enduring the worst recession for a generation.
Many big companies have learned the lessons of incessant ethical crises, from British Airways’ Terminal 5 opening fiasco, to scares over new ‘wonder’ drugs, to BP and Deepwater Horizon. Half of FTSE 100 corporations (still not nearly enough) now have a comms chief on their executive committee.
Meanwhile, the 1990s concept of holistic, multiple-stakeholder comms – driven by enlightened PR professionals – has become embedded in the culture of successful British organisations, with firms such as John Lewis understanding the need to convey the same narrative, and the same principles, to suppliers, employees and customers.
On the pure marcoms front, the power has permanently shifted from top-down marketing – the traditional advertising spot – towards peer-to-peer comms, which has drawn on PR’s historic ability to hold an ongoing, honest and profitable dialogue with stakeholders. And so, at the beginning of 2013, we find ourselves in a comms world where the lines between bought, earned and owned media have blurred to the point where total integration is the logical step.
It means that the best organisations are identifying their product and ethical ‘truths’ and talking about them openly and creatively via numerous channels. It is an exhilarating time to be working in PR, advertising or any form of creative communication. It is an inspiring time to be writing about it.
When I took over the editorship of PRWeek, people still talked about PR as the ‘poor cousin’ of advertising. Now they are siblings in a thriving family, increasingly difficult to tell apart.
I like to think that PRWeek and myself have played some small part in these profoundly encouraging developments. À bientôt.