When I was a very little boy my father and I went boating on a lake
near our home. Before we set off, the owner gave us a wooden block with
the number one painted on it. After half an hour, he shouted through a
megaphone, ’Come in, number one: your time is up!’.
Recognising that call seems to me a central part of commercial life.
Rainmaker, contact builder, founder, entrepreneur - whatever.
Recognising and knowing when to go is a vital part of career
Twenty-six years ago I started our company in a garret room in Carlos
Place, London. We built it aggressively, organically and went public
just ten years later - the second PR firm ever to do so. We had a vision
of building the business globally - first in the US, then in
Asia-Pacific and lastly in Europe.
We had huge problems, terrifying setbacks but, by the time we sold to
IPG 18 months ago, we had built a wonderful business, an integrated
service offering and a great team.
Our company has headed the PR Week league tables in the UK for 14
consecutive years. Shandwick is now number two in Europe and the
Asia-Pacific, and number three in the US. Golin/Harris will now emerge
as a world-wide, differentiated brand of outstanding potential.
I believe, therefore, that under our new owners, IPG will quickly make
itself number one in PR everywhere in the world. And as it reorganises
its non-advertising business I hear that voice I heard more than 50
years ago: ’Come in, number one: your time is up!’.
And I agree. It is time. Building this business has been an incredible
journey. And from the very first days we have had a marvellous team of
people to whom the credit really goes for building the business. There
are nearly 3,000 of them today and it is they who set IPR apart.
But over the 35 years I have been in this industry, how it has
In the mid-1960s, there were only a handful of PR firms which could
genuinely boast six-figure incomes. Most of us had ended up in PR
because we failed at something else - journalism, stockbroking ...
Industry standards were appalling. We over-claimed and
We lived well but made our companies into meal tickets and not
profitable, independent businesses. It was a cowboy era.
Today we have an industry of which, in very large part, we can be
Most of all, we attract both young graduates whose first choice is to go
into PR, and successful second career men and women who bring genuine,
professional experience to the business.
I was chairman of the first PRWeek Awards and chaired last year’s,
The improvement in quality - not least in the way we evaluate
performance - over the intervening years is outstanding. And, whereas in
1974 we had to create an agenda and persuade potential clients they
needed us, today we have an agenda clearly mapped out.
The rise of the internet and e-commerce; the growth of public affairs
and financial and investor relations, and calls to plan global PR
strategies and implement them have resulted in an overriding need to
build a wide range of proprietary PR tools for each of the different
practices and an industry-wide recognised method of evaluation.
These are the key items for every PR practitioner’s agenda in the new
century. For the industry, sadly, they bring up the same hoary old
chestnuts - policing the industry, maintaining standards and training.
They all need solving.
Oh to be 20 years younger and to face the prospect of addressing these
Certainly, for 26 years, I have thought, dreamed and done little else
but think about our PR business. There is no substitute for working
hard, long hours and being resilient.
Resilience - my hero, Maurice Saatchi, has shown that resilience is the
characteristic you need above all others in this industry. He is living
proof that to succeed in a business like ours you fight on, never give
up and never complain or blame in public.
He has an infectious enthusiasm which makes you think (rightly) that he
believes life is great and he is enjoying himself immensely. And that
should be true of all of us in PR - this is a great business in which to
enjoy yourself. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t stay in it.
And the biggest change of all? The clients. We complain about them but
it is their recognition about what PR can do; their willingness to
stretch our brief and their willingness to make allowances for our
mistakes which has given us the confidence to push forward the
boundaries of the industry.
There is nothing better for the professional life of a PR person than to
have a really good client or a really good employer. One who praises
success but forces you to rise higher in your professional
When I sign off from IPR in a few months, I will do so with sadness but
And at 57 what will I do? Something else in PR? Perhaps, but perhaps
not. In the famous PR expression ’I count nothing in and I count nothing
out’. For now.
Chadlington, 23 May 2000
LORD CHADLINGTON OF DEAN (PETER GUMMER)
1964-65 Journalist, Portsmouth and Sunderland Newspaper Group
1967-74 PR manager, Industrial and Commercial Finance Corporation (now
1974 Launched Shandwick
1985 Shandwick joins the Unlisted Securities Market
1986 Shandwick gets full London Stock Exchange listing
1996 International Public Relations formed with Shandwick and
Golin/Harris as wholly-owned subsidiaries
1998 IPR sold to the InterPublic Group
1991-96 Chairman, Understanding Industry Trust
1998 The Howard League for Penal Reform
1999 Chairman, communications and marketing sub-committee, The Healing
1999 Trustee, Atlantic Partnership
2000 Chairman, Action on Addiction
1991-95 Member of the NHS Policy Board
1991-96 Member of the Arts Council of England
1994-96 Chairman of the National Lottery Advisory Board for Arts and
1996-97 Chairman of Royal Opera House
1999 Honorary Fellow, Bournemouth University - first college to offer BA
(Hons) in PR
OTHER BUSINESS INTERESTS
1990-94 Director, Halifax plc - London Board
1994 Director, Halifax plc
1999 Chairman, Transitions of Life - new internet company for those
facing ageing, critical illness and bereavement
1996 Elevated to Peerage as Lord Chadlington of Dean
1999 Member of the select committee on European Union; sub-committee: