How dare Peston call public relations operatives "professional bullshitters"?

Has the BBC's economics editor never heard of "360-degree, end-to-end solutions" or "cross-generational, platform agnostic paradigm shifts"?

Robert Peston: Fears the influence of PR (GL Portrait / Alamy)
Robert Peston: Fears the influence of PR (GL Portrait / Alamy)

Has he not seen the website of a digital communications company that proclaims the virtues of its approach: "Led by the action and storytelling of brand, and driven by the interaction of consumers, at its intersection through insight, data and technology, we create innovative ideas that make the loop flow"?

Has he not come across the PR company whose pitch is expressed thus: "Using our GPS (goal, perspective, strategy) knowledge navigation and insights guidance system, our approach drives toward (sic) authentic engagement by aligning brand with reputation"?

How dare he say such unkind things about us!

Us? Yes, after three decades on Peston's side of the fence, at a number of national newspapers, I moved to what is lazily called "the dark side" exactly a year ago when I established Seven Dials, a PR company with a mandate to eschew "PR bollocks".

This was inspired by a lifetime of meetings in which people across the table would tell me "this is what good looks like" or would suggest "we put a pin in it and circle back later".

I'm being disingenuous, of course. PR bollocks is not quite what Peston was talking about: his speech was more a lament for old-style journalism, the quality of which he feels has been undermined by the consistent reduction of editorial budgets.

Into the power vacuum has stepped the PR industry, peddling its own commercially driven agenda, and in the pay of those who want to flog something, whether it's a chocolate bar or a government policy.

Peston may well have a point, and for the sake of a functioning democracy, it's in all our interests that independent journalism that holds politicians and big business to account continues to exist.

I can't help feeling that Peston is simply mourning the passing of an old way of doing things – talking only to company CEOs and not being seen dead with their PR people, for instance – and he's picking on the wrong target.

Yes, journalism ain't what it used to be, but that's because it's not the exclusive preserve of trained professionals any longer. Everyone with a mobile phone and an opinion is now a journalist.

Social media have revolutionised our world of communications, and the old order has broken down. It's what you might call a paradigm shift, and I completely understand why Peston and his colleagues are discomfited by it.

Simon Kelner is the chief executive of PR agency Seven Dials and the former editor-in-chief and MD of The Independent.

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