This is why 77 per cent of FTSE 100 firms now employ a senior-level comms director, half of which are female, according to new research by Watson Helsby. And it is why these corporate affairs bosses are paid so handsomely – ranging from £140k to £800k.
It is also why the best consultancies are enjoying such success. For example, Tim Allan’s Portland is seeing incredible growth in demand for its ability to advise both businesses and governments – what Allan pertinently describes as ‘contested communications’. Elsewhere, we have seen Tesco’s new boss, Dave Lewis bring in Blue Rubicon for a crucial role in the supermarket’s proposed ‘reputation turnaround’.
And, of course, it is why the advertising agencies, or management consultancies, are now snapping up the best PR people, businesses and skill sets. When I ask your cousins in Chime, Omnicom or PwC why they’re so interested in ‘PR’, they attest to comms people’s unique ability in ‘storytelling’, in creating rigorous, relevant content.
All figures in public life – businessmen, politicians or other celebrities – now recognise the relentless scrutiny they face from social media or 24-hour news outlets. Their challenge therefore is to tell a convincing ‘story’ about themselves and their ambitions: a consistent, robust narrative that will resonate among the people that matter.
Old-school advertising no longer works in that sense. PRWeek’s analysis of the current general election campaign reveals that political parties, like many corporations, have lost faith with traditional methods of broadcasting to their audiences. There will be little of this in the run-up to May 2015. Instead, wisely, they seek demographic-led, data-led conversations that continue to evolve, but which are based on insight and authenticity. In other words, proper campaigning.
Corporate leaders have always learned from political campaigns, and vice versa. Both have more recently watched tech-media businesses – even the smarter celebrities – build and maintain good reputation in this age of easily available, shared content. Those who fail to learn, including some media, will soon be consigned to history’s dustbin.
PR professionals need to change too, of course. But those who do: those who embrace the new order – those who retain confidence in the core skills of quality content, solid judgement, productive conversation – are set to inherit the spoils of the future.