PRs on Top: Why New Senior Figures are Great News for the Industry

Autumn is a time for change. Recent weeks have seen a number of significant individuals take up prominent leadership roles: not only in Washington and the China Communist Party, but also in the major powerhouses of the communications world.

What is heartening is the fact that positions at the top are increasingly being occupied by those with a PR background. Recently, Everything Everywhere announced that Stuart Jackson was leaving his post as Director of Communications to take up a new role as Director of the Chief Executive Office. The move evinced the increased weighting that is being placed on public relations at senior management level. Put simply: boards are recognising that in the Now Economy, success begins and ends with the ability of a company to engage in a genuine, deep, meaningful two way dialogue with their customers.

This week Harris Diamond has been announced as the new CEO of global ad firm McCann World Group. Diamond has a distinguished track record- in PR. Previously top cheese at Weber Sandwich, Diamond is just the latest in an increasing number of professionals with a PR background being recruited by the advertising industry. Traditionally seen as our more creative cousins, there is a growing understanding that, in the modern world, innovative communications mean much more than making a sexy looking ad and buying some space to stick it on.  In order to have traction, creative content must be generated in conversation with its audience. PRs have an understanding not only of compelling stories that capture the crowd, but also the conditions that must be in place to give the narratives they generate life in the long term, serving a brand long after a particular campaign disappears from our TV screens and billboards.

Of course, the result of this is that PRs are going to have to step up to the mark. Silos must be busted; mindless drudgery expelled from the workplace. We have thus far made poor work of defining what it is we do, and we must move to rectify this. Diamond’s job title- CEO of the Constituency Management Group- is hardly likely to elucidate matters: I’ve been given sleepless nights trying to work out exactly what the poor chap’s remit entails. We must hope that his mastery of the craft of communications shines through, and that he’s not just a bean counter in a PR person’s suit.

Speaking more widely, it is up to PR folk to ensure our skill set is fully understood; we must set our terms of engagement. We are being offered the opportunity to take our place at the top table, and we must seize it before it slips through our grasp.