Today PRWeek publishes the Power Book – the first ‘who’s who’ guide to the UK PR industry.
Designed as a directory, which profiles around 500 of the leading figures in public relations, the Power Book does not attempt to rank its entrants.
However, to celebrate we thought it would be interesting to ask six people familiar with the worlds of PR, media and politics to identify the top 10 ‘influencers’ in this country.
The resulting ‘Power 10’ is an intriguing line-up of PR advisers to big business, politicians and celebrities.In terms of age, nearly 30 years separate the top two, but Lord Bell and Steve Hilton have several things in common.
Both are former Saatchi & Saatchi ad men and both have strong influence in the Conservative Party, albeit from different wings of the movement.
Respected political blogger Iain Dale singles out Hilton for ‘redefining a hugely damaged Conservative brand in 12 short months’ but pays tribute to Tim Bell, who he says ‘remains the doyen of public relations’. But at least half the list have equally strong connections to Labour.
Picking just 10 individuals from an ever-growing sector was always going to raise questions. And one of the most obvious of these is why is there only one woman?
Colin Farrington, director-general of the CIPR, agrees that for ‘an industry with about two thirds women, this is crazy’. But he adds that many of the industry’s power females – which include Clare Parsons of Lansons and Alison Clarke of Huntsworth – maintain a lower profile but are ‘no worse for it’.
Our readers will no doubt have their own views on PR’s most powerful (firstname.lastname@example.org).
PRWeek asked six people with an objective knowledge of the PR industry to pick 10 people from a shortlist of 16 and place them in order of importance. Their ‘number one’ was awarded 10 points; their ‘number 10’ was awarded one point. The final list was produced from the total scores out of a potential 60 votes.The six were George Galloway MP, The Guardian political editor Michael White, CIPR director general Colin Farrington, PRCA director general Patrick Barrow, Iain Dale, writer of his eponymous political blog and PRWeek editor Danny Rogers.
LORD BELL (pictured, above)
1st (49 points)
As chairman of Chime Communications, Lord Tim Bell oversees one of the biggest marcoms groups in the UK.
As well as the better-known Bell Pottinger and Good Relations divisions, Bell’s Chime owns Harvard, Insight, Resonate, De Facto, The SMART Company, MMK, Rare and Traffic.
But aside from holding the top spot in an organisation that pulls in an annual fee income that is measured in tens of millions, Tim Bell has a 36-year pedigree as one of the key players in the international PR and marketing sectors.
Part of the founding team of Saatchi & Saatchi, Bell was the group’s international chairman when it claimed the top spot in the worldwide ad agency listings in 1981.
His work on the Conservative Party’s election ad campaigns in 1979, 1983 and 1987 was recognised by a 1990 knighthood in Baroness Thatcher’s resignation honours, but by then he had already set up Chime Communications.
Operating out of its Curzon Street HQ, over the years Bell’s counsel has been sought by leading business figures and politicians from not only the UK, but all over the world.
Firms such as Castrol, Dyson, Ebay, Hewlett-Packard, Honda, Kimberly-Clark, Nikon, O2, Rolex and Rolls-Royce all seek Bell and Chime’s counsel, with his experience giving him the authority to take on the toughest briefs.
In 2004, someone was required to take on the seemingly impossible job of promoting democracy in Iraq. The job went to Bell Pottinger, with Bell himself at the helm.
And more recently the hard-living PR man took on the tarnished image of the private equity sector.
2nd (33 points)
David Cameron’s director of strategy is one of the key figures behind the Tory Party’s recent resurgence in the popularity polls.
Despite being only 37, Hilton has held a number of heavyweight positions, including working with Lord Bell at Saatchi & Saatchi in the 1990s, co-ordinating the Tories’ 1992 election campaign and starting up the consultancy Good Business.
Whatever else Hilton does, he will always have the infamous ‘demon eyes of Tony Blair’ ad campaign on his CV, but if David Cameron manages to sweep the Tories into Downing Street in the next election then he will soon become one of the most powerful men in the country.Unlike Alastair Campbell, Hilton prefers to keep his own profile low but as godparent to David Cameron’s eldest son, he is close to the seat of power.
Joint 3rd (31 points)
|Quite possibly the best-known PRO outside of the industry, Max Clifford has often been a key figure behind the scenes of tabloid and broadsheet headlines for the past 30 years. Dismissed by some as a ‘purveyor of sleaze’, but admired by many inside and out of the industry for his sheer ability to influence the mainstream news agenda, Clifford’s exposées have left politicians from all parties with some highly embarrassing and dubious questions to answer. |
Joint 3rd (31 points)
Huntsworth chief executive Lord Chadlington (formerly Peter Gummer) founded Shandwick in 1974, and by the early 1980s had pushed it to the top of the UK PR agency tree.
He sold the agency to International Public Relations Group (IPG) in 1998, making it the biggest in the world, but a year later started marcoms group Huntsworth.
He was awarded a life peerage in 1996 and is a strong supporter of the arts.
5th (30 points)
Though Matthew Freud Associates is now called Freud Communications, the influence of its founder and chairman still means that this relatively small agency (2005 fee income £12.7m) punches well above its weight.
Freud’s client base, comms experience, family connections and his own steady hand at the wheel easily make him one of the most powerful media professionals in the country.
6th (28 points)
As an adviser to Tony Blair for 13 years, Anji Hunter was described as ‘the most powerful non-elected person in Downing St’ before taking up BP’s director of comms role at the end of 2001. As an adviser to Tony Blair for 13 years, Anji Hunter was described as ‘the most powerful non-elected person in Downing St’ before taking up BP’s director of comms role at the end of 2001.
Hunter currently has her work cut out as BP finds its previously glowing reputation under fire for serious allegations about its policy towards safety in the US.
7th (24 points)
Inevitably dubbed ‘the new Alastair Campbell’ when he took over as Tony Blair’s comms director in 2003, David Hill has a long history with the Labour Party. He was the party’s comms director from 1991 to 1997 and senior press officer for the party during the 2001 election. He was also Roy Hattersley’s chief of staff when Hattersley was Neil Kinnock’s second-in-command.
The Guardian’s Michael White describes Hill as ‘the first proto-spin doctor I ever dealt with’. ‘When David said “Roy thinks this”, you knew he either did, or would be doing it once David had explained it,’ White adds.
As the PM’s official spokesman, Hill has been credited with a more laid-back and less aggressive manner than his predecessor. But lobby hacks and political commentators still believe he does the job well. He has also been a director at Good Relations.
Joint 8th (21 points)
Weber Shandwick UK chief exec Colin Byrne is the man at the helm of the country’s biggest PR agency.
Another person with strong New Labour connections (he was Labour’s chief press officer from 1988 to1992 and worked with Peter Mandelson on the 1997 election campaign), Byrne’s counsel is also sought by some of the world’s biggest brands.
Joint 8th (21 points)
‘City spin supremo’ Parker’s Brunswick Group claims about a third of FTSE 100 firms as clients, making him one of the most powerful men in London’s financial sector. Indeed, many commentators argue Parker’s influence has defined the way City PR works today.
Intentionally low profile, Parker nonetheless continues to work at the highest level and attract key industry players.
Over the past five years he has recruited former US state department spokesman James Rubin (who reportedly left in 2004), ex-Sun editor and WS senior vice chairman David Yelland and former Ofcom chief executive Stephen Carter.The son of former British Rail boss Sir Peter Parker, Parker still controls the lion’s share of Brunswick himself.
When reporting on his recent marriage, The Times described him as ‘a former oil-rig worker and rock band manager who is worth a reputed £110m and has a hotline to any chief executive in the country’.
10th (18 points)
|Financial Dynamics global CEO Charles Watson saw his agency command the highest price ever paid for a financial PR agency in September when FTI Consulting shelled out £139m in cash and shares for FD. |
That Watson was able to negotiate such a deal with a management consultancy is testament to his business acumen and ability to convince the City of the power of financial comms.