Opinion: PR and giving up the privilege of comment

So this is it - my last column for PRWeek, and at a rough count my 340th (if you include leaders from my days as editor). And to the anonymous survey respondent who suggested the best way to improve PRWeek would be to 'sack Kate Nicholas' - you try writing a weekly column for eight years!

But no, I haven't been sacked. In case you missed the news story, after ten years at PRWeek - in roles ranging from features editor to editor-in-chief, and finally associate publisher - I am taking the plunge and returning to the world of PR. Call it a mid-life crisis if you like (although I prefer to think of it as a calling), but I have for some time  felt the need to do something different, and am now going to head up comms at leading international relief and development agency World Vision.

This isn't my first foray into PR, although my early experiences weren't always that edifying. My decision to move into journalism 15 years ago had a lot to do with Care Bears, and being the poor relation in a highly successful advertising agency.

However, a stint at UNICEF Australia gave me an important glimpse of what communications could achieve.

But this a real moment of truth for me. As one contact has pointed out to me, it is as if I have taken a doctorate in PR - with the most stellar cast of tutors. Now we will find out if I can practise what I have been preaching.

Certainly a lot has changed since I joined PRWeek as features editor. Looking back at my first issue as a staffer: Quentin Bell joined the ranks of the super-wealthy with a mere £443k package; the lobbying industry was reeling with shock post-Nolan; and healthcare PROs were trying to make sense of NHS restructuring (okay, some things never change). And my first leader as editor defended Simon Lewis's appointment as the Queen's comms adviser, and examined the reputational fallout following Princess Diana's tragic death (okay, some media obsessions also never change).

But in those days, UK media contacts would fit into a Rolodex, the ‘information superhighway' sounded futuristic, and consumer activism was confined to bun fights at Harrods sales.

The prospect of entering today's 24/7 global multi-media fray is fairly daunting. And I know that from now on I will have to fight for every column inch. Considering the perfunctory coverage given to the unfolding situation in Darfur, giving a voice to victims of the forgotten humanitarian disasters is going to be quite a challenge.

So, as I write this final column for PRWeek, I realise what a privilege it has been to be given a platform such as this column.

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