The days of long lunches and Champagne receptions may be a distant – and possibly hazy – memory for some in the PR industry, but networking itself remains as important as ever.
Little wonder then, that when PRWeek called 30 senior journalists and PR industry veterans and asked them to nominate – off the record – the ‘best connected’ PR people working in the specialist spheres of City PR, entertainment and politics – the suggestions came thick and fast.
It also made it a tough task choosing the eventual winners.
Many suggested that Freud Communications chairman Matthew Freud should be named the best connected in either the entertainment or the political categories. Freud’s New Labour connections and relationships with celebrities and editors – not to mention his family connections – are well-documented. That said, Freud’s contacts did not put him ahead of the specialist PR professionals on the opposite page.
In City PR, there was one clear winner: Brunswick founder and chairman Alan Parker. Parker has connections at the highest level of British business and politics, and both David Cameron and Gordon Brown attended his recent wedding.
As one former broadsheet political editor and columnist notes: ‘Pulling out both the Chancellor and the leader of the Opposition at his wedding was a pretty formidable performance.’
In entertainment it was a close-fought race between The Outside Organisation CEO Alan Edwards, Max Clifford and The Corporation chairman Gary Farrow. Others – including Neil Reading, LD Communications chief executive Bernard Doherty and Polydor head of press Sundraj Sreenivasan – were also nominated.
But the most hotly contested category was the political one, with some PROs accused of being too closely associated with Tony Blair.
The many suggestions included Weber Shandwick director of corporate and PA Michael Prescott, Portland PR MD Tim Allan, Charles Lewington, MD of Hanover (formerly Media Strategy) and Brown Lloyd James chairman Sir Nick Lloyd.
The eventual winner, Conservative peer and former Thatcher press aide Lord Bell, divided opinion, being lauded by some but labelled ‘yesterday’s man’ by others. Most argued that his connections in overseas governments were second to none. One insider says: ‘To think he does not have access to New Labour would be to seriously underestimate him.’
To find out how PR’s best connected built their networks, see part two of this feature in PRWeek, out 25 May, or online from 23 May.