To make an end is to make a beginning

Reflections on a decade editing PRWeek US and covering the PR industry as the 2010s come to an end and the 2020s loom on the horizon.

PRWeek's content has evolved significantly over the last decade to reflect the fast-changing PR industry.
PRWeek's content has evolved significantly over the last decade to reflect the fast-changing PR industry.

As we reach the last vestiges of the decade I can’t help casting my mind back almost 10 years to April 2010 when I landed in New York City to take on the editorship of PRWeek US.

Once I’d checked into the hotel where I was staying I took a stroll down to Madison Square Park on a beautiful spring day. I looked back toward the Empire State Building and wondered what lay ahead of me in a new job in a new city where I literally didn’t know anyone. I was excited, but also a little apprehensive.

A decade later, I am now the longest-tenured editor-in-chief of PRWeek US in its 21-year history. I’m not sure whether that’s a cause for celebration or contemplation – but it certainly provides pause for thought and reflection.

It was a decade of the smartphone, the rampant rise of different social media, integration of marketing and communications disciplines and the rise of earned media and awareness of the importance of corporate reputation.

It was a period that began with the impact of the global financial crisis still casting its shadow and ends with a U.S. president being impeached and using it as a selling point to argue for four more years in power.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with some fantastic people on this journey, and it gives me great pleasure to follow the stellar achievements of PRWeek alum such as Lindsay Stein at Campaign US, Brittaney Kiefer at Campaign UK and Alexandra Bruell at The Wall Street Journal.

On the current PRWeek edit team, "PRWeek Diana" Bradley is a superstar and Thomas Moore and Sean Czarnecki have fast become stalwarts of the newsdesk.

A few things have stayed the same on the brand over the decade – such as the excellent and continuing contributions of PRWeek’s managing editor Gideon Fidelzeid and executive editor Frank Washkuch. But pretty much most everything else has changed, just as it has in the industry we cover at PRWeek.

The black-and-white print covers have given way to more consumer-style treatments epitomized by our Michael Phelps cover in November.

In truth, nothing we do here begins with print as a starting point anymore. Between 35-40% of our web traffic now comes via mobile devices. A reporter is on duty from before 6:00am ET to produce our popular Breakfast Briefing and hand off from our other PRWeek edit teams in the U.K. and Asia. We now have a reporter in the Middle East.

Mirroring the cross-discipline integration at holding companies we have been tracking in our editorial coverage, we work closely in partnership with our sister brands Campaign and Medical Marketing & Media in the U.S. and Campaign’s regional offerings in the U.K. and Asia.

Our live events and convening power have taken us across dozens of cities in the United States and abroad into Japan, Hong Kong, China, Davos in Switzerland, Cannes in the south of France, Rio and Sao Paolo in Brazil, Canada and London.

We developed existing assets including the PRWeek Awards (the Oscars of the PR industry), Salary Survey, 40 Under 40, Agency Business Report, Power List and PRWeek Conference (now PR Decoded).

And we launched the Hall of Fame, Best Places to Work, Hall of Femme, Purpose Awards, Health Influencer 50, Brand Film Festival, Bellwether Survey, Global Awards, The PR Week podcast, Diversity Distinction in PR Awards and developed a significant custom content business.

The developments will continue in 2020 with the debut of PRWeek Dashboard in the communications technology space, a deep research dive into our purpose awards, a partnership in Latin America and a new focus on DC and public affairs in the run-up to the U.S. election.

If you’re not innovating constantly and reinventing your brand then you are effectively falling backwards, and this particularly applies to media brands such as ours. PRWeek is a scrappy remorseless content and convening engine that kills it every day in pursuit of bringing the best and most useful resources to our readers.

Next year is what former WPP CEO Martin Sorrell used to call "maxi-quadrennial," in that it contains significant four-year events that traditionally boost marcomms and advertising spend: the U.S. General Election, Summer Olympics, and UEFA Euro soccer championships. The jury is still out on the continuing impact of these big set-pieces as the marketing landscape changes, but it will undoubtedly have some positive effects.

On the large agency side, the big holding company firms had a challenging year, which resulted in lukewarm financial performance in terms of revenue and profit growth. It's down to the continuing process of integration, rationalizing and merging brands across holding company groups, and coping with increasing in-housing of services by clients.

But in a polarized world where governments and institutions are failing to inspire trust in their stakeholders, business is being asked to step up and play a leading role in demonstrating purpose and establishing a moral compass, just as much as shareholder value – by employees, customers and investors.

Brands, businesses and agencies must all establish and maintain clear narratives in this fast-changing and febrile environment, and PRWeek is there to track that process.

I just received a holiday card from Karen van Bergen and the team at Omnicom Public Relations Group containing a quote from T.S. Eliot that seems particularly apposite:

"For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning."

Around 500 blogs later, millions of words written, and many many millions of words edited, the vitality, vibrancy and constant evolution and revolution in the PR industry makes it just as interesting and just as much fun to cover as it was on that hot spring day in 2010 when I arrived in the greatest city in the world to edit PRWeek US.

Long may that continue into the next decade! Thanks for all your support and I wish you a happy and safe holiday period with your families and friends.

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