Watching the PR industry come of age

Looking back over PRWeek's 21 years, as one inevitably does on anniversaries, it was sobering to realise that I have been involved with the magazine for almost a decade now, and with the PR industry one way or another for even longer.

OK, as the first copy of PRWeek was rolling off the presses, I wasn't in

PR, but finishing an MA in Fine Art and becoming increasingly dubious

about my ability to take the art world by storm.

Instead, with a daunting family background in advertising and

journalism, I fell into PR as a kind of compromise, being introduced to

the sharp end of consumer PR in a small consultancy off Fleet Street.

Armed with my Pims directory, I hit the phones running but wasn't

inspired by a client roster dominated by Care Bears, so moved on to

advertising agency Holmes Knight Ritchie (soon to be become TBWA/HKR),

which had launched a PR arm.

Advertising in the mid-80s was a lot of fun but, typically, this was not

a relationship of equals. While enfant terrible Trevor Beattie was

having the time of his life upstairs, the PROs were literally working

'below the line' - the water line - at TBWA/HKR's canal-side

offices.

By the early 90s I had concluded that PR consultancy was not for me and

became a business journalist. Ironically it was only then, when writing

for magazines such as Business Age and Marketing, that I began to

realise the potential and power of PR.

Perhaps inevitably my path led to PRWeek, where I have gained a more

holistic view of PR and have marvelled at the increasing sophistication

of the PR proposition.

Emerging concepts such as reputation management and corporate

responsibility have placed corporate comms people centre stage on

business strategy. Even the basic working methods have altered

radically. Back in the early-80s there were only four TV channels to

monitor, there was no such thing as the internet and we were still using

typewriters rather than PCs.

But perhaps the biggest shift has been the industry's growing

self-confidence, a result of its increasing contribution to the bottom

line.

I'm ashamed to say that when I was at TBWA/HKR I used sometimes to

neglect to mention at parties that I worked for the PR arm in the

basement. Little did I imagine how Martin Sorrell's acquisition strategy

alone would elevate the status of the business in the marketing mix.

Twenty-one years on, I feel very proud to have been involved in some

small way in this remarkable industry.

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