OPINION: Letter - The time is right to say adieu and take my leave

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!’.

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 ...

’proper work’.

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

few regrets.

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



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


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:


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