Prior to joining the PR industry, Farrington had a distinguished career in the Civil Service – he was private secretary to Home Secretaries Roy Jenkins and Merlyn Rees from 1974 to 1977. From 1988 to 1998 he was secretary of the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation. He also served as an adviser to the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development, and was a member of the World Bank’s Advisory Council on Fiscal Decentralisation.
In 1998, Farrington joined what was then the Institute of Public Relations as director-general. He led the organisation through its transformation to the CIPR through the granting of a Royal Charter in 2005. The CIPR described this as his "most enduring legacy".
He also played a major role in the formation of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, the first global body for professional associations in the PR sector. He served as the Global Alliance’s chair in 2007 and 2009.
Farrington left his role at the CIPR in 2010. During his retirement in North Wales, he published a novel, Mr Churchill’s Driver. Based on historical events, it created a fictional narrative about a meeting between Winston Churchill and former Ireland president Éamon de Valera.
Former CIPR president Anne Gregory, professor emeritus of corporate communication at the Huddersfield Business School, said: "Colin was in his element when liaising and negotiating at the most senior levels in government. He had consummate skill in reading the situation and knowing just when to push forwards and hold back. He loved it: he knew how to read the lines on the page and what was being said between them.
"Without him, working alongside the IPR’s lawyer Michael Stewart, we wouldn’t even have got to first base in achieving the Royal Charter, never mind a successful conclusion. We owe him the hugest of debts."
Writing on LinkedIn, Francis Ingham, director-general of the PRCA, also paid tribute: "This morning, I heard that Colin Farrington died yesterday. I knew that he had been ill, but the death of a friend always shocks you. It certainly shocked me. I cried when I heard that he had moved on. I can’t recall when I last cried on hearing of someone’s death.
"I feel justified in calling Colin a friend, because he most certainly was one. For three years, he was my boss. For a couple of years, we were competitors. For every year I knew him, he was someone I respected and tried to emulate.
"He had style. He had determination. He believed in having fun. He made the rain – he didn’t cower under it.
"The world is a less colourful place without him. Adieu Colin."