Along with some other PR "grandees", I recently got into a Twitter spat with the author of a new book, snappily titled, Trust Me – PR Is Dead.
Having once, as editor of my university newspaper, published a completely spurious front page article claiming the college library was closing – which it clearly wasn't – to boost circulation and talkability, I get it. Though I was 20 at the time...
PR isn't dead. Far from it. It is changing, evolving. Not the same thing. Ask a dinosaur.
But it is also growing in influence within firms and organisations, in size, in people with new skills being attracted to the profession, and in self-confidence and innovation. The opportunities have never been greater for our profession and for diverse and ambitious talent to join it.
As an industry we do seem to suffer from periodic bouts of extreme introspection and self-doubt. A few years ago it was worrying about how we got out from under the yoke of the "spin doctor" epithet, despite the fact that 98 per cent of people employed in our industry had nothing to do with politics or "spin". We worried about the people who were held up by the media as icons of PR – satirists, political bruisers, celebrity publicists. Some of them are now either facing jail or their friends are. Time to grow up and move on.
Then, with Cannes opening up to PR agencies six years ago, and advertising agencies taking the top prizes, it was the cue for many in our industry to beat ourselves up for not being creative enough. I took the opposite view. Ad agencies had been running Cannes for more than 60 years. PR had been there five minutes. Look and learn oh my brothers and sisters! And stop whining.
As I write I am in Stockholm, capital of one of the most advanced digital economies in Europe, one of the most creative countries in the world, and home to the world's most creative award-winning PR boutique, Prime. This month it became part of the Weber Shandwick family. I am in awe of the work it does, and have been since I met executive creative director Tom Beckman five years ago.
It is the poster child for evolution in PR. The work pushes the boundaries of digital public relations and engagement. It disrupts and provokes as well as engages. Creativity is central, brave – not token or a pink plaster cow in reception. Its staff are drawn from top business schools, management consultants, advertising creative departments globally and high level politics, not cannibalising other PR agencies. The people at Prime inspire each other. They inspire me.
People like those at Prime are just one example of why PR is most certainly not dead.
Colin Byrne, CEO UK & EMEA, Weber Shandwick