Posts Tagged ‘PR Week’

Max and My Letter to PR Week

Monday, May 20th, 2013 by Rob Brown

Max Clifford

Two weeks ago PR Week published a blog post praising Max Clifford’s handling of his own PR following his arrest as part of Operation Yewtree. I thought they were wrong to do so and last week they published my letter explaining why. Letters to the magazine are only available in the print edition so I have posted it online here on PR Media Blog.

“For years, those of us that work in PR have lamented the mediocre reputation of our profession.  At the same time we have, it seems, been powerless to prevent the omnipresent Max Clifford acting as a de facto voice of public relations.  The media carries a fair share of the blame, seeking sound bites from a celebrity publicist who cites his secrets of success as “confidence and the ability to lie with conviction”.

I wasn’t alone in being horrified with Ian Monk’s homage to Clifford’s PR skills in the pages PR Week a fortnight ago. It joins a catalogue of misplaced eulogies for Clifford and I don’t think PR Week should have carried it. The subject of Ian Monk’s praise was Clifford’s personal PR in the face of his recent arrest but if you watch it back, his performance is unremarkable and his statement is stilted and self-absorbed.  There is nothing to admire and nothing for the fervent student of PR to learn.

Most PR people agree that Max Clifford is not one of us; he’s a publicist, a self-promoter and self-confessed dissembler. Many of us feel that he has besmirched the reputation of PR for decades.  Quite aside from the fact it’s possible that that he may become unable to carry on speaking on behalf of the public relations industry it is time that we found new voices to represent us.  We have some brilliant minds and some great speakers.  It may be a case cobblers shoes, but now is time for PR to manage its own reputation.”

About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of 'Share This Too' (2013).

PR comes out into the light?

Monday, February 15th, 2010 by Jon Clements

Is it right for the corporate “story makers” – aka PR people – to become the story?

PR Week editor, Danny Rogers’ latest editorial poses the question in the wake of the Toyota furore, in which the company’s UK communications chief, Scott Brownlee, as opposed to the management, did most of the talking.

Add to that a tardy apology from Toyota’s top brass, and you wonder what the company is doing at the most testing moment in its history.

I’ve spent a number of years working on media training with major companies so that people at the head of running operations are capable of communicating effectively, especially in times of trouble. Fielding a PR person to defend the company would seem to defeat the object, and suggest that those at the business end have got something to hide.

But after the worst recession in living memory, in which a lot of PR and communications went the way of all flesh, does the Toyota example illustrate a more interesting point: that PR is being treated as an equal at the boardroom table?

Countries, never mind companies, are reputedly looking to PR advisers to protect their reputations and solvency during the current Eurozone financial meltdown.

But is this approach to PR still resonant of barn gates and bolted horses?

A quick internet search for PR and strategy brings up an interesting study. Before I tell you how old it is, I wonder how close to your experience this extract comes.

“Public relations professionals typically are not involved in strategic management until an issue occurs; they are not called in to help anticipate which publics might create issues and to communicate with those publics before issues occur. Senior managers are preoccupied with the mass media, even though they generally are not the most effective way of communicating with strategic publics-especially at the stage of building relationships rather than responding to issues. And there is a surprising fragmentation of the communication function, especially in corporations. Many departments have responsibility for communication, and many organizations do not integrate the function. As a result, strategic planning for public relations is almost impossible.”

The study, by the IABC Research Foundation, was published 20 years ago. I’d like to think much has changed since then, but the scenario depicted  by the research still seems remarkably familiar.

PR people often cry that the client’s call for help came too late, leaving them to make the best of a bad mess.  But do communicators ever wonder why they were not part of the inner management circle from the beginning (after all, the marketing people are there)?

A more recent (2004) and highly informative study by Chime and Henley Management College into CEOs’ views on reputation management suggests that while bosses value PR very highly – seeing it as part of strategic thinking and providing the “corporate conscience” – they also need PR to make its case very clearly in order to be taken seriously at management level.

But former McKinsey consultant, James Kwak, warns CEOs about the dangers of overconfidence, which can apply to their attitude to PR also.

Some chiefs are natural communicators with an instinctive grasp of PR, but not all. Bringing in the PR team – in-house and agency – early in the strategic planning stages will give the comms plan the discipline it needs. It won’t necessarily make the bad stuff go away, but it will make it a lot easier to chew when it does.


About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

Journalism and PR – freedom counts for both

Monday, October 19th, 2009 by Jon Clements


Update: Talking of super-injunctions, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger takes us through the Trafigura document, clause by press-gagging clause…

Trying to talk about about super-injunctions, press freedom and PR this week feels like walking into an overcrowded lift and attempting to make yourself heard above a dozen, City hedge fund traders who’ve just made a few million quid.

You can’t move for the acres of copy filling paper and digital pages about super-injunctions – the meaning of which, just over a week ago, was unknown outside the offices of lawyers, Carter-Ruck, and remains unclarified today on Wikipedia.

The background, in short – and with the help of the New Law Journal – is: “Law firm Carter-Ruck, representing oil trading firm Trafigura, had insisted that an injunction obtained against the Guardian prevented it from reporting a question tabled by Paul Farrelly MP. However, details of the question were posted on the social networking site Twitter, leading Carter-Ruck to withdraw its gagging attempt.”

Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger, celebrated the victory for free speech in his editorial late last week, with no faint praise for the role of Twitter and the blogosphere in helping the reversal of the court order, which threatened to trounce the media’s unassailable privilege of reporting what’s said in the UK Parliament.

Unsurprisingly, the Guardian is working overtime on this story, with pieces from Emily Bell, Index on Censorship boss, John Kampfner, and acerbic wit from Charlie Brooker, who describes Trafigura’s corporate PR as “about as effective as appearing on the GMTV sofa to carve your brand name on the face of a live baby”. The Daily Mash is also revelling in the absurdity of it all.

But one of the more serious issues emerging is the one highlighted by Kampfner, who notes the powers of the Human Rights Act being abused by companies to achieve privacy (for that, read secrecy) originally intended for members of the public.

Learning the laws of libel and slander is a mainstay of journalism courses (I did it myself – the law paper we dubbed the “Mother of all exams”). But Kampfner’s point is that the legal imbalance between investigative journalism and the right not to be defamed has made English law “the enemy of free expression”.

Co-incidentally, the latest changes to the Press Complaints Commission’s Editors’ Code of Practice are said to swing power in favour of the PR profession at the expense of journalists. But Porter Novelli director of media Laurence Lee is quoted in PR Week’s piece as saying: “There will be plenty of PR people who would welcome greater restrictions on journalistic practices…PR people rely on a free press as much as anyone else so it’s no good saying journalists are the enemy.”

Ironically, this is nothing new. Describing his trips to London’s law courts while editor of The Sunday Times, the great Harold Evans, writes in his book “Good Times, Bad Times” – now 26 years old: “I went before the judges because Government or corporations or individuals tried to find reasons in law for preventing The Sunday Times printing what it knew to be true…it was not abstract or remote power, but the power that is capable of building an airliner knowing it will fall out of the skies, or of cheating small savers…or selling a deforming drug and refusing to compensate reasonably for the shattered lives…”

Evans’ words should remain humbling, today, for anyone setting out to trample on the truth. The Guardian’s victory in the Trafigura case – with the help of “the people” empowered by social media – suggests there is a still a premium placed on that abstract noun, truth.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

To pay or not to pay?

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 by Chris Bull


A recent article and survey on industry bible PR Week’s website exploring how agencies treat work experience placements appears to have caused plenty of debate after it revealed 71% of agencies ‘rarely or never’ pay work experience staff.

This was entirely at odds with a subsequent poll of agency staff in which over half believed that grads should receive remuneration for their work at an agency. Those who support the idea that grads should be unpaid, such as Cake MD Chris Wood, claim that there is no commercial benefit from taking on work experience placements and that the benefits are reaped largely by those on the placements. Others, however, such as Diffusion MD Daljit Bhurji, claim that agencies are simply “exploiting young people desperate to enter the PR industry.”

So who’s telling the truth? There certainly appears to be credence in both arguments. Indeed, a successful work placement at a good agency will, most likely, lead to a job in the industry.  During placements, most agencies offer grads a fantastic insight into the world of PR, while giving them the opportunity to learn from professionals who, in the most part, are happy to take time to teach the basics and impart their knowledge of the PR industry.

In many ways it comes down to the basic tenets of supply and demand. PR is a hugely popular industry amongst those leaving university, yet compared to others is relatively small. The ratio of those seeking employment in PR to jobs available is always going to provide dismaying statistics for those trying to enter the profession. So, it follows that if there is a constant supply of grads, not only willing, but desperate to work for free, what businessman in his right mind would pay?

PR agencies are, after all, businesses and not charities. However, I feel there is a compelling argument as to why this is morally unfair and ultimately damaging for the industry.  I say this because many agencies expect grads to work for months on end without any pay, and with no promise of a job at the end. In the PR Week survey, two agencies commented that four months without pay would be acceptable. But how many grads are actually in a financial position to support themselves for this kind of period without pay?

The lucky few will have parents or other family members who are happy to support them throughout this period. Yet there are many whose parents simply cannot afford or – after 20-odd years don’t want – to pay several thousand pounds to support their children for months on end. This means that, every year, grads who potentially have enthusiasm, skill and a great work ethic to offer find the PR industry to be, simply, a closed door. Ultimately, this leaves PR in danger of becoming considered an elitist industry that is hard to break into without the help of plenty of cash or a spot of nepotism.

And if the industry cannot look after its own reputation…

About Chris Bull

Account Exec for Staniforth PR, based in the TBWA\ Building in Whitfield Street, London. Areas of interest include politics, the car industry and sport.

PR Week ‘Twinterview’

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 by Rob Brown


I am going to be interviewed about my book ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ today by PR Week’s Digital Editor Peter Hay (pictured above).   The interview is going to be a bit different as it will be conducted entirely on Twitter.  The questions will come from Peter @PRWExtra and I will be responding from @RobBrown

You can follow the interview by following us both or by using the hashtag  #PRWInterview . The action starts at 10am, I hope one or two of you will drop by!

About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of 'Share This Too' (2013).

PR Week – Tories Blog Plot

Thursday, September 25th, 2008 by Mark Hanson

Interesting story on the front of today’s PR Week about rival Labour and Tory plans to dominate the blogosphere. More on the Labour/Draper story at a later date but the Tory plan caught my eye. Apparently they’ve been working with Screen West Midlands to gather together a group of local bloggers and give them ‘VIP access’.

There will be access to politicians although I think Rishi Saha, Tory head of new media, is struggling to guarantee specific shadow ministers. This is a small but positive move and reflects the approach in the US, where for example the McCain campaign has daily conference calls with bloggers, including UK Tory bloggers! Loic le Meur also used this on the Sarkozy campaign.

What’s fascinating here is that they have chosen non-political blogs to take part in this. The guests are blogging in the arts, culture and entertainment spheres. The aim is to build a groundswell of support amongst general opinion formers who may be persuaded to engage and debate Tory policies as opposed to rabidly backing or attacking.

It’s a laudable aim but if it’s going to work the Tories need to show genuine long term commitment to this and make senior people regularly available in person, phone, email between now and the election. The danger is that the bemused bloggers are hurded into a backroom in Birmingham for tea and buscuits, have an awkward Q&A with a bemused shadow cabinet member and then having ticked a box forget all about it.

Its also interesting that the Tories have used Screen West Midlands to get these bloggers together. I guess they must be local leaders in new media as opposed to Tory supporters. It’s important to find a local group such as this you need to convene a group of the local blogerati.

10 out of 10 for effort, would love to get reaction from the Brummie bloggers as to what actually happens. Those taking part will include Dave Harte, Podnosh and

What I Really Think About The PM on YouTube

Friday, May 23rd, 2008 by id

Prime Minister’s Questions on YouTube

PR Week have covered Gordon’s foray onto YouTube this week. I think its the best thing he’s done, hot on the heels of Paddick’s Twitter, the key to politicians on social media is to recreate the old days, when people were actually able to ask politicians things live! And then they would talk back!

Since TV took over politicians have gone into ‘top-down’ soundbite mode and people are now massively cynical about it. So Gordon has got the medium and the principles right but it will still be Gordon and that’s the bit PR Week have quoted me on!

Seems Drew B didn’t quite have his full view expressed as well:)