Seminar, formerly known as PR Seminar, is an annual gathering of communications leaders who come together to listen to speeches delivered by corporate CEOs and various sector gurus on topics both PR-related and not.
They no doubt do other very important things, and unless I am wildly misinformed - Seminar most definitely does not court press - it is the most elite gathering of PR power players going. Membership process is both rigorous and unforgiving.
No doubt many Seminarians also appear on the pages of our first-ever PR Power List (beginning on p. 15). But then again, many, many do not. For this, our inaugural effort in this vein, we decided to elect a relatively slim number of people to the list - a mere 25. And while there are some fairly obvious inclusions, hopefully there are also some surprises, some who are not necessarily on the Seminar radar.
It wasn't long ago that putting together a PR "power" list might have been seen as a somewhat silly pursuit. The industry hasn't changed, rather the perception of what constitutes power has. Controlling vast sums of money is no longer the sine qua non of influence, inside and outside the world of communications.
Defining PR power is not a linear process. It is the art of evaluating individuals through a matrix of criteria. Jon Iwata, for example, is not on the list merely for being the head of communications at IBM. Rather, the leadership that he brings to the industry through sheer example, of driving communications into unexplored territory for the benefit of the function's enduring relevance and the corporate good, is what makes him stand out.
On the other hand, someone like Carol Cone earns her spot for ongoing thought leadership and strategy in one of the most dynamic areas of the business - cause marketing.
And someone like Jason Wright of Merrill Lynch, who is not one of those people you run into at the Arthur W. Page Society meeting, is someone whose power is seen at a greater distance, touching on corporate profile, philanthropy, and political relationships.
If there is a great leveler in PR, it is that of service. Look closely at the activities of many of the industry's leaders and you'll see a strong tradition of community involvement that enriches many organizations, and no doubt the lives of those who take time to take part.
This year's list was a mere 25. Next year, we'd like to see this list swell to 50, driven by the sheer force of the profession and the people that populate it, rather than an artificial interest in simply increasing its reach.
One area that needs development is increasing the profiles and ranks of the power players who represent diverse communities. Other areas we are looking for include the nonprofit ranks, as well as academia.Rigorous review went into the compilation of this year's group, but there is no doubt that over the next couple of years, this list has the potential to change dramatically. Let this column serve as an invitation to our readers to help us start working on next year's offering.