Opinion: Guardian's power list underestimates PR

Intriguing to see the latest Media Guardian 100 'power listing' this week, which featured only two PR people in its ranks - Max Clifford (56th) and Matthew Freud (86th).

When The Guardian began the supplement five years ago - a project in which this writer was involved - there was a heavier showing from the PR industry. So does the current rather paltry representation mean PR people are becoming less powerful? Clifford does not think so - he phoned this week, sounding genuinely surprised at the rankings.

Clifford, like PRWeek, argues businesses, politicians and celebrities - even nations - are demanding communications advice as never before, placing good PR people in unprecedented positions of influence.

The likes of Alan Parker (Brunswick's supremo) Andrew Grant (Tulchan) and Lord Bell (Chime) are regularly consulted by a significant portion of FTSE 100 chief executives. Surely they deserve a place in a table that features ad men (albeit very good ad men) such as Nigel Bogle (54th) and Johnny Hornby (72nd).

Perhaps this anomaly can be explained by the inherently ‘behind the scenes' nature of PR. Parker, for example, has always preached that he ‘must not get in the way of my clients'. The same must apply to powerful in-house comms chiefs such as Simon Lewis (Vodafone) and Anji Hunter (BP).

Another factor is that many journalists - and the senior content executives who tend to make ranking decisions - prefer not to acknowledge the day-to-day influence of PR. This was writ large in the initially venomous reaction against Julia Hobsbawm's Editorial Intelligence venture (and it is interesting that Hobsbawm herself is omitted from the list).

The PR industry must continue to talk up its influence. Moreover, it must better demonstrate that there is a new generation of Cliffords, Freuds and Bells who can confidently rub shoulders with the very best in the media sphere.

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