The 17 opinion pieces that shook 2015

If there is something the PR and comms industry is never short of, it's an opinion. Here are the opinion pieces which floated your boat, rattled your cage and flipped your pancake in 2015.

The 17 opinion pieces that shook 2015

1) The Sun’s head of PR Dylan Sharpe told readers that the Prime Minister would be "mad" to agree to a televised debate with his political opponent, Ed Miliband, adding that it was a "no win" situation for Dave. 

2) Later in January, MHP chief executive Gavin Devine wondered aloud whether Taylor Swift is "the best person at PR, like ever?" Devine argued that the pop princess could hardly put a foot wrong as she mastered the art of engagement on one hand while, seemingly, appearing everywhere at once, to the delight of her fans.


3) Launch PR’s consultant director Alex Black explored the dos and don’ts of chemistry meetings in which he advised our readers from in-house teams not to arrange too many of them in a single day. Why? Because "agency number seven in the 4pm slot could be made up of the Dalai Lama, Mary Berry, Nelson Mandela and a lovely fluffy kitten, but chances are you’d rather set fire to your leg rather than listen to their creds". 


4) Chris Blackwood, now partner at Third City, channelled his inner ‘Brucie’ for a piece entitled "Play Your PR Cards Right". Don’t go "all in" too often, argued Blackwood and don’t be so ROT-ty about everything (that’s Results Orientated Thinking" to you and I).


5) Claire Bridges, founder of Now Go Create, warned the smartphone generation that they were risking their creativity by staring deeply into the screen and forgetting to look up at the world around them once in a while. Some of us here at PRWeek couldn’t agree more.

6) Later that month, PR was killed by Robert Phillips before being swiftly resurrected by Adrian Michaels, former Telegraph editor and founder of FirstWord Media. Michaels said reports of the death of PR had been exaggerated. It was the purpose of PR which was dead, he argued, adding: "That grating and squealing sound you can hear of handbrakes being applied at high speed is PR agencies repositioning as content-production specialists."


7) Conor Nolan, a freelance brand and communications specialist, took issue with Mathew Freud’s quote that there is "nothing sadder than a 40-year-old PR person". 50-year-old Nolan argued that the industry was becoming a little obsessed with youth and the ability to wield social media over experience.


8) Continuing an ongoing theme of wellbeing in the industry, Jacqui Macdonald, founder of Goddess School, said she quit the industry before it could completely claim her good health after two decades of exhaustion, too much sugar and an excess of wine. She told her former profession to avoid burnout by eating and sleeping well and paying attention to the health of your mind too.

9) Then Meera Thakkar, account director at Burson-Marsteller, explored how Sheryl Sandberg's post on the death of her husband was "a poignant departure from the usual 'best version of self' on Facebook". For Thakkar, Sandberg’s honesty cut through the internet noise and cat memes like a knife through butter and made her pay attention.


10) The (we’re told) usually mild-mannered Jonathan McCallum, head of sport at Ogilvy PR, got angry at brands for failing to put their money where their mouths are and properly support women’s sport. McCallum’s tirade followed hot on the heels of the success of England’s female football team at the Women’s World Cup. He told brands it was nothing short of a responsibility for them to invest in women’s sport, particularly at grass roots level.


11) The emergence of the ‘sweaty-gate’ scandal, over a faked case study elicited some strong opinions from readers. "Nobody outside PR land cares," argued Andy Barr, ‘head yeti’ at 10 Yetis. "What is interesting, and by interesting I mean hilarious, is reading comments from holier-than-thou fellow PR agency owners feigning disgust that this kind of thing goes on and chucking rocks from their glass houses at the agency in question. Bore-off."

12) But one person who did care was Rob Brown, then CIPR President-elect, who decided to "call time on PR bullshit" and argue that taking money to mislead journalists and the public was unethical, plain and simple.


13) September saw the election of Jeremy Corbyn as the new leader of the Labour Party, a shock victory which few would have predicted only a couple of months before. But his style as well as his savaging at the hands of the media led our own features editor, Alex Benady, to opine that the PR industry should thank Corbyn because he is a walking reminder of what can happen if one does not take expert advice. Camila Batmanghelidjh please take note(s).


The prospect of customer’s visiting a brand’s Facebook page and registering their antipathy would have community managers "reaching for the crisis-management documents as often as their content plans" he argued.


15) Supporting female practitioners was the theme of The PR Network’s co-founder, Nicky Imrie. She called for an end to the PR graveyard of experienced women due to a lack of flexible roles on offer to them if they decide to have families.

16) PRWeek’s digital editor, Khidr Suleman, took issue with The Independent editor Amol Rojan’s stance that PR’s starting an email to journalists with the, admittedly bland pleasantry "hope you’re well" were guilty of "lying obsequious stupidity". Since when was it a crime to be polite, argued Suleman? "Will editors be issuing fatwas to stop PRs from smiling when they greet them at an event if they don’t think it’s genuine enough? Lord have mercy."


17) John Higginson, head of corporate comms at ICG, said it was time for big pharma companies to start defending themselves. Since the 1950s, global life expectancy had risen from 40 to 70, largely as a result of life-saving drugs. And yet, surveys show public trust in big pharma is at similar levels to that of tobacco or oil companies.

Higginson argues that "there is no other industry in the world today with a greater gap between the good that it does for society and how that same society perceives it." He said pharma companies despair this perception gap and called for the industry to address the deficit.  

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