'Financial PR is dead,' says veteran City PRO Richard Pollen,
chairman of the IPR's financial group and co-founder of the now-defunct
Valin Pollen, one of the most successful yet notorious PR agencies of
'Some people may see this view as contentious,' he concedes. 'But our
business is now corporate communications: it's not financial relations
or financial PR - that's all dead now, it's finished.'
Pollen has some radical views on the future of the financial PR market,
which not everyone may agree with. Yet as one of the great pioneers of
UK financial PR, who has, as he says, 'been there and got the T-shirt',
he is well qualified to pass comment.
Pollen, who now runs his own consultancy, Pollen Associates, from his
Hampshire home, is a firm believer in integrated corporate
So much so, that he has just put his personal stamp on the IPR group
with a name change from City & Financial to Corporate & Financial, a
title that he says better reflects the group's members and industry.
'I wanted to widen the group and it didn't seem right to use the City
label any longer.
Financial PR is now automatically brought into the whole corporate brief
and therefore investor relations and all financial communications come
under that responsibility,' he says.
It was this idea that led Pollen and a colleague from the then Charles
Barker agency, Reg Valin, to break away and form Valin Pollen (VP). It
became famous for its meteoric rise in the 1980s - and just as rapid
demise in the early 1990s.
'The concept was to integrate all the disciplines of financial
communications - and nothing has changed,' says Pollen.
The ethos that launched VP caught on and the firm rapidly became the
corporate communications agency of its time, floating in 1984 and
recording a market cap of around pounds 80m in its most successful
But VP's success was stopped in its tracks when its acquisition of US
firm The Carter Organisation led to unforeseen financial problems and a
share-price collapse. Pollen bailed out, but faced with 'financial
losses, a large family and a lot of educational commitments', he wasted
no time in launching his own firm, Richard Pollen & Co, which he later
sold to Ludgate Communications, now Golin/Harris Ludgate.
Pollen's former colleagues from the VP era - many of whom have since
gone on to great things in corporate PR - remember the tough times
during VP's decline. But they also remember the good times and the
extravagant staff parties.
Neil Hedges, now Fishburn Hedges CEO, joined VP as its first account
executive and later became its CEO. 'Richard was great on big events,'
says Hedges. 'He wanted to do everything on an impressively grand
It made people feel good about themselves and that rubbed off on all the
Legend also has it that Pollen was extraordinarily particular about
presentation, both of his staff and offices - a trait he acknowledges:
'In this business, you have to have talent for noticing how things are
presented. I tend to be very fussy about that, both in personal life and
Hedges recalls his mentor hauling him up for wearing the wrong coloured
suit or tie. And Dr Steve Tibble - a former colleague at VP and at
Richard Pollen & Co - says: 'He once sent a memo round all the staff
saying that somebody had left the ice trays unfilled'.
Pollen is now becoming better known for his role within the IPR. He has
plans to make the 400-strong financial group a credible face for the
industry, which he says has not been its strength so far.
Pollen is also calling for more corporate PR luminaries to join the
He says they have 'a responsibility to become a member'. 'There's not
enough industry leaders as members, but there should be,' he claims.
Meanwhile, aside from his IPR and PR consultancy commitments, Pollen is
also active as a father of seven, a regular runner who annually takes
part in the London Marathon, a keen fox hunter and co-founder of the
family's organic food business, Pollen Organics, run by his wife
'There might come a time when I put my corporate communications to bed
and concentrate on Pollen Organics,' he hints.
Yet he shows no signs of slowing down. Financial Dynamics partner Neil
Mainland, ex-VP and former president of the IPR Corporate & Financial
Group, agrees: 'He's got a tremendous amount of energy, both mentally
and physically. There are marathon runners in life who just keep going
and I think he is a true marathon runner, both literally and in terms of
his work and commitment.'
1979: Co-founder, Valin Pollen
1990: Founder, Richard Pollen & Co
1997: Founder, Pollen Associates
2001: Chairman, IPR Corporate & Financial Group