Agony Uncle: Trevor Morris on leadership, socialising, and 'oldies' in PR

The co-author of PR Today and Richmond University's professor of PR gives it to you straight.

Follow the leader

I think I am a good leader. I get results. At my appraisal my boss told me I lack leadership qualities. Is what makes a good leader just a matter of opinion? How do you define leadership?

Most leaders, when asked to define leadership, come up with a string of fairly meaningless platitudes…. ‘setting clear objectives and inspiring and motivating people to achieve them’. Hardly helpful. In my experience great leaders come in all shapes, types and sizes, as do organisations and leadership challenges. Some are inspirational arm-wavers who would be at home in an evangelical church. Some are Spock-like rationalists who motivate by their calm intelligence. Some are bullies who use the stick more than the carrot. Some are like firm but loving parents. Some have a mix of these attributes. The best have second-in-commands who complement their skills. Perhaps your boss means that, while you get results, everyone who works with you wants to leave.

Country living

I moved out of London last year and joined a regional consultancy. It is very pleasant, but there is virtually no out-of-work socialising. I miss it. How can I get people to go out after work without sounding like I have a drink problem?

Buy them a chauffeur. Virtually nobody in London drives to work because of traffic, parking and the congestion charge. This leaves them free to hit the bars every night of the week should they so wish… indeed a quick drink after work can mean missing the worst of the rush hour crush. The reverse is true outside London. Virtually everyone drives to work. The upside is they don’t have to travel on the tube and can live in beautiful properties often less than a 20-minute drive from work. The downside is they don’t get to drink with their work mates very much – though they will probably live longer as a result. Do you have a drink problem?

What’s in a number?

The consultancy we use always quotes market trader type prices when we ask how much something is going to cost. For example £29,999 rather than £30,000. Why do they do it?

They have read a book, or been on a course, that talks about the ‘left digit effect’. Apparently people remember the first number. Basically £29,999 is remembered as being in the twenty thousands while £30,000 is remembered as in the thirty thousands. The reality is a £1 difference, but tests show sellers do better with the slightly lower unrounded figure. Perhaps PR and washing powder aren’t that different.

Life after PR

There don’t seem to be many oldies in PR. What happens to them when they leave?

It is true you don’t see many people who did O-levels rather than GCSEs. What seems to happen is there is a wave of young PRs who leave before they are 30 either to have kids or become estate agents. There is then a second wave who, by the time they are 40, have drifted into ‘less sexy’ management roles. Then there are the ones who have made money and want out. They tend to invest in property and turn to drink. The ones who haven’t made any money open newsagents in Brighton or B&Bs in Hampshire. And finally there are the PR ‘oldies’ like me who just go on and on…

Got a problem? Contact Trevor at

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