THE TOP 150 UK PR CONSULTANCIES 1998: REPUTATIONS - The ambassador If the PR industry was a country it would be one bereft of a foreign policy. But even so, there are a few practitioners deemed by their peers to have ambassadorial qualities.

We all know PR consultants who are brilliant at handling their clients’ reputations, but who would they choose as the best ambassador for the PR industry as a whole?

We all know PR consultants who are brilliant at handling their

clients’ reputations, but who would they choose as the best ambassador

for the PR industry as a whole?

In last year’s Top 150 we asked a cross-section of industry luminaries

which agency they felt was best at handling its own PR. What eventually

emerged was that many felt that consultancies were by and large dreadful

at doing PR for themselves.

This year we have sought to identify the consultancy practitioner who

has been the greatest ambassador for the sector. Predictably in light of

last year’s findings, the most common response was that no one fitted

the bill.

’The problem is that people in a position to give good opinions are

generally too busy running their own agencies,’ says Firefly managing

director Claire Walker.

There is, of course, a lot of truth in this assertion, yet at the same

time it is a damning indictment of communications professionals. If the

PR industry was a country it would be one bereft of a satisfactory

foreign policy. But even so, there are still a few practitioners who are

deemed by their peers to have shown ambassadorial qualities. Of these,

it is no surprise to learn that the one who stands out most is the

chairman of Bell Pottinger Communications, Sir Tim Bell.

’Tim Bell is still the public face of the industry,’ says Cohn and Wolfe

managing director Martin Thomas. ’I don’t always agree with the way he

does business, but in terms of profile he’s head and shoulders above the


Edelman managing director Tari Hibbitt also plumps for Bell. ’In terms

of profile I suppose one has to say Tim Bell. But I’m not convinced I’d

consider him to be the ideal ambassador.’

Nevertheless, in an industry in which precious few are prepared to stand

up and be counted, Bell is in a class of his own.

There are, however, others who win praise for their efforts. Sir Tim’s

namesake, Quentin Bell, erstwhile chairman of the PRCA, is singled out

by Firefly’s Walker. ’He repeatedly goes on record about very sensitive

issues. Over the last three years he’s done a lot to lift the industry,’

she says.

Fishburn Hedges chief executive Neil Hedges votes for his counterpart at

Hill and Knowlton, David McLaren. The revival of H&K under McLaren has

set high standards and enhanced the credibility of PR, according to


Scope Ketchum deputy chief executive Richard Aldwinckle nominates the

chairman of fellow Omnicom-owned consultancy Countrywide Porter Novelli,

Peter Hehir, for his work with international consultancies body ICO and

for the ’gravitas’ he brings to PR consultancy work.

High hopes were expressed by a couple of industry figures for incoming

PRCA chairman Adrian Wheeler, the managing director of GCI Group


His tenure is expected to be ambassadorial in nature, with Wheeler

striving to build client confidence in consultancy services.

Put on the spot as to who he believes is PR’s most effective ambassador,

Wheeler also opts for Tim Bell: ’He is a PR man in the broadest use of

the term. I won’t say he’s an angel, but he talks sense, he’s

unflappable and sees PR in its true context - part of corporate or

Government management concerns - rather than as a precious craft in its

own right.’

There were several quirkier best ambassador nominations. Keene

Communications managing director Tina Elliot selects headline-grabbing

publicist Max Clifford. ’With Max, at least people know that PR is

there,’ she says.

Dewe Rogerson executive chairman Tony Carlisle picks Alan Parker,

chairman of rival financial consultancy Brunswick. Parker is famous for

seldom giving interviews, but Carlisle sees this as a cunning technique

for building his prestige. ’Alan’s position is that he’s studious at

avoiding publicity, but in so doing he gets a lot of it.’

But Peter Hehir has the last word: ’The best ambassadors are those whose

businesses are doing best because that’s good for the PR industry.’

So much for the cult of personality.

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