OPINION: Industry trio inspire media fascination

It has been a good week for the 'big cheeses' of the UK PR scene.

We had Weber Shandwick chief Colin Byrne as a panellist on BBC's Question Time, a breathless profile of Brunswick supremo Alan Parker in The Sunday Times, and even old warhorse Lord Bell managed to shock the Square Mile, revealing that his firm Chime grew profits by 51 per cent last year.

Although there were three different news hooks - including Parker's ‘society' wedding to Jane Hardman - it is no coincidence that the bosses of the three biggest PR agencies are catching the eyes of the media.

As said here previously, the PR sector is enjoying a mini boom. It is this that enabled Chime shares to outperform the FTSE All Share media index by 23 per cent last year - giving it the cash to buy sports marketing group Fast Track this week for £15m.

PR strategies have climbed the media agenda, with a tranche of high-profile takeover battles - not least that of Alliance Boots - and Lord Bell widely quoted on the reputational challenges facing private equity.

And finally there is a renewed interest in political communication, with a hearts-and-minds battle between Gordon Brown and David Cameron. The public are now so savvy about how the political parties present their policies that one sometimes feels - somewhat depressingly - this is what will influence their votes. So it is also no coincidence that Byrne, Parker and Bell remain - at heart - party political animals, spanning centre-left to right of the ideological spectrum.

All of which helps the profession raise its profile. A good thing; as long as strategy and influence do not get confused with spin and shadiness.

But, with even Byrne and Parker having celebrated their 50th birthdays, it does beg the question: where is the next generation of PR movers and shakers?

The answer may lie in PRWeek's Power Book directory, to be published on 30 March.
danny.rogers@haymarket.com

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