Where once we were left to observe quietly from the wings – ensuring it was our clients who assumed centre stage – increasingly communications professionals find themselves as the main act. And lately the audience has not been very kind.
While the size and influence of the advocacy business has grown like Topsy since I made my start three decades ago, I am not sure our collective reputation has ever tracked lower.
If you were to approach the average Joe then most would struggle to identify what a lobbyist does.
If they did, the image conjured up would be some version of fat cats striking deals with shifty civil servants in smoke-filled rooms.
The reality is a lot less sordid, but far more intriguing.
My experience as a proud lobbyist, campaigner, and media relations man is of something entirely contrary to the recent public portrayal of these professions.
This is an industry populated with some of the most talented, articulate, and laterally thinking people you will find anywhere on the planet.
This is an industry that, during the 21st century, has come of age.
Without us, Britain would be worse regulated and less ably governed, underpromoted, and financially poorer.
When I was at ITN, we supported and defended the freedom of the press by proposing amendments to and counselling against articles within bills concerning data protection, freedom of information and filming in public.
Since then, I have been involved in work which welcomed the Olympics to London for the first time since 1948, celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of our longest reigning monarch, and marked Britain’s flag carrier airline’s centenary year.
Brand Britain at its very best in all three instances: confident, diverse, open-armed.
However, our sector does more than just boost Britain’s soft power around the world.
It also makes an extraordinary direct contribution to the national purse.
At last count we numbered 97,300 employees and had a total worth of £15.7bn.
This is money which is used towards lifting people out of poverty, improving infrastructure, and increasing our global clout – not quite the dark arts that many would have you believe.
My prediction for a second Roaring 20s did not quite catch light last year; however, there is time yet.
The communications industry is going to have an incredibly important role to play in 2021.
Expect to be involved in campaigns which tempt families out of their homes and back onto the high street, digest businesses’ post-Brexit priorities and present them to government, and champion causes which have been overlooked and underfunded these past 12 months.
None of this is possible without us.
Mark Gallagher is founder of Pagefield
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