While in 1980 there were 1.2 PRs for every journalist, by 2010 the ratio was four to one. As my industry (journalism) has got a touch of ash dieback, so theirs has blossomed. We hacks have a mixed relationship with those in the communications game. The best practitioners are honest, straightforward and useful. Indeed, doing what we attempt to here at MT, monthly in print and daily online, would be difficult without their active assistance. The ones we like deliver what they promise and they don't tell us fibs. I won't even start on the manifold sins of the miscreants; suffice to say: don't ever bother ringing me to say you're about to send a press release; it makes me lose the will to live.
These days, the better PRs are often cleverer and more sensitive to the complex modern nuances of doing business than those within their organisations whom they serve. They have become powerful individuals: the eyes, ears and sometimes even the social conscience of their companies. I recall a wizened eco-campaigner complaining that the only way into large FTSE companies was via the comms route and that this had to mean the only possible result would be greenwash. The truth is that the whole CSR/sustainability argument would never have got anywhere near the boardroom if it hadn't entered via the PR door. It certainly didn't come from finance.
I've known Paul Morrell, who wrote our feature about his spell as HMG's 'building czar', for a number of years. …