CAREERS: When Daljit met David...

With 50 years of experience separating them, David Wynne-Morgan and Daljit Bhurji represent two different eras of PR. But what can they learn from each other? PRWeek brought them together to find out...

Daljit Bhurji and David Wynne-Morgan
Daljit Bhurji and David Wynne-Morgan

Daljit Bhurji What advice do you have for someone like me who is just starting out with my own agency?

David Wynne-Morgan Well, first of all, the business you have set up seems to be in the right area. Young people do not read newspapers like they used to - and anyone who can bridge the gap ­between online media and traditio­nal newspapers is likely to be successful.

DB That's certainly good to hear. But does the current economic climate make small agencies vulnerable?

DW-M There is no denying these are tough times. The good news is that PR is resilient, if not entirely rec­ession-proof. I've survived two [recessions]. It's important to watch every penny. Cut out unnecessary exp­enditure and keep overheads to a minimum. Put the blinkers on and focus on what you do well.

When you are ­established, then start thinking about exp­anding. I will say this about a ­recession, though: it can present tremendous ­opportunities. The greatest shifts in market share can come about when times are tough.

DB I've been in the industry for fewer than ten years, but even I have seen the req­uired skills change in that time. So my plan is to get bright young people in and make sure they are trained to do the things we actually need. Is that the right way to do it?

DW-M I reckon one can take a university graduate and turn him or her into a highly effective PRO in the space of three years. The pursuit of top talent should be never-ending.

DB So how do you respond to people who say the number of talented people entering the industry has declined?

DW-M PR doesn't rate as the top thing to do among young people, but I'm not sure it ever has done. A key thing is to make sure salaries are in line with other ind­ustries that are perceived as ‘exciting' - such as advertising and television production.
Another problem is that the public thinks a PRO is someone like Max Clifford - who, incidentally, is very good at his job - and therefore has an inaccurate perception of the industry.

DB So what should PROs be doing to ensure the public, and potential rec­ruits, know what the industry is really about?

DW-M PROs should have the courage of their convictions and not let clients bully them. It is easy to write a press rel­ease the client will like, but that will invariably be identified as ‘spin'in the media.

DB If you had to highlight one major change in the media and PR industries that you've noticed over the years, what would it be?

DW-M Newspapers are no longer rich men's toys. When I was a journalist we weren't paid well, but we stayed in the best hot­els. News is a business these days, and that means a journalist might write four stories a day as opposed to one story in four days.

The PR industry has certainly changed for the better over the years, though. When I joined the board of H&K there were no women on it. When I left, fantastic PROs such as Flic Howard-Allen [now M&S comms ­director] were on the board and men were in the minority.

DB You are a royalist and, indeed, were a royal correspondent for many years. How has the public face of the monarchy changed over the years?

DW-M When I was a reporter in the 1950s, the then Duke of Kent had three road accidents in a year, so my news ­editor told me to get an interview.

I got a uniform and smuggled myself into his room at Sandhurst. He was shocked and declined to comment on my questions, but, despite that, the next day's front-page headline was ‘Duke of Kent talks to Mail'. The poor man never said a word, but the fact that a journalist had been in front of a royal was so unheard of it was regarded as big news.

These days, the monarchy is showbusiness, and it has been ever since Prince Charles gave an interview to David Dimbleby and admitted having an affair. I advised him against that, by the way, as I was doing press work for him at the time, but I was overruled by his then private secretary Richard Ayl­and. That opened a Pandora's Box.

DB I read somewhere that you were once approached by the Bin Laden family to rebuild the family's reputation after the 9/11 attacks on New York. How did that come about?

DW-M Firstly, contrary to some reports, I never worked for the family. A friend came to me and said he had a client ‘with a PR problem'. He asked if I would come and meet the legal team. They talked in circles without mentioning the name until I dragged out of them that it was the Bin Laden family.

They asked if I'd come and meet the chairman. I said the only way I would do so was if he sent me a letter stating that no member of the family had ever given any money to Osama. I never got the letter and that was the end of the matter.

Daljit Bhurji (age 29)
2008 sets up Diffusion - a digital PR agency built on social media and search - with ex-Hotwire colleague Ivan Ristic and Google search expert Barney Jones
2007 one of PRWeek's ‘29 under 29'
2006 promoted to associate director; wins Tiscali account
2004 takes over running the agency's digital media practice
2000 graduates from university and becomes Hotwire's first employee

David Wynne-Morgan (age 77)
November 2007 merges WMC Communications - provider of specialist corporate comms and strategic advice - with Pelham Public Relations
1996 Chairman/CEO of WMC Communications
1994-1998 Head of corporate comms for Barrick Gold and Trizec Corporation
1992-1994 Chairman of H&K's worldwide Management Committee
1983-1991 Chief executive of Hill & Knowlton UK
1957 founds PR Partners with John Paul Getty as first client 1950s Royal correspondent at the Daily Mail then the Daily Express

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