MONK: 'Hot hundred' list cannot be serious

The Guardian has just published, with a touch of smugness and a dash of self-consciousness, its annual 'hot hundred' list of the 100 most influential media folk.

Ian Monk
Ian Monk

More eclectic than ever, the 2008 roll call features Ant and Dec, Rupert Murdoch and Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Newspaper proprietors and editors jostle for position with internet giants and showbiz agents. Criteria for inclusion are cultural influence, economic clout and political power.

Of the entire 100, only four are from the public relations industry. Some mistake, surely? For those who missed the list (it is online at Media Guardian), our industry's representatives are Roland Rudd, Alan Parker and Matthew Freud.

Despite their deserved professional reputations, it could be construed as curious that the substantial influence of at least two of the three has been due to intimate connections with a Labour Government whose day is done.

If influence and political clout are measures, surely more recognition should be accorded to the Conservatives' Andy Coulson for his relentlessly astute media handling.

However, it is the lack of numbers from our profession, rather than the identity of those selected, that should concern anyone inclined to take the list seriously. Whatever its faults, public relations is the zeitgeist profession of the early 21st century. As the media are incessantly reminding us, we live in an age of spin.

Former Guardian journalist Nick Davies devoted chunks of his book, Flat Earth News, to highlighting the vast amount of news content influenced by the PR industry. Yet his own newspaper seems to contradict his thesis.

The current influence of PR is endemic. In politics, the PR dog wags the policy tail. Across the spectrum, celebrity culture is a PR-driven phenomenon. In global business, flotations, acquisitions and mergers are brokered with PR as a driving force. Our interaction with the media has never been greater.

The industry is worthy of inclusion in greater numbers in any serious chart of media influencers. Unless its pre-eminent practitioners would prefer not to appear on any list that includes Katie Price.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun

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