Sambrook is joining Edelman as global vice-chairman and its first 'chief content officer' in May, making him one of the most senior UK journalists to date to move into PR. He has been at the BBC for the past 30 years, after starting his career as a trainee journalist with Thomson Regional Newspapers.
Sambrook said he had been in discussions with president Richard Edelman and EMEA president David Brain over the past two years. He said he decided to join Edelman because it is 'redefining PR'.
He added: 'Top-down PR no longer works. Members of the public are less deferential, they are not prepared to take straight messaging any more. You need to arouse their interest, be more consumer focused, more responsive and interactive.'
Sambrook said he used similar principles to overhaul the BBC's news output over the past few years, by making its news offering more interactive.
At Edelman, Sambrook will be helping clients to produce written, video and audio content. He will also assume leadership of the agency's global crisis and issues management practice when the current director Mike Seymour stands down from his full-time role.
His high-profile hire, combined with media redundancies sending a growing number of journalists into PR, will reignite the debate about whether luring big journalists has a positive effect on the PR industry.
Writing in PRWeek, Ian Monk, the former journalist who established PR firm Ian Monk Associates, said: 'Our industry should welcome a vibrant influx of journalists. But ...
PR needs to address the issues of proper mentoring and training requirements.'