Magazine article Management Today

Books: Can Comms Win Back Our Trust?

Magazine article Management Today

Books: Can Comms Win Back Our Trust?

Article excerpt

The PR industry has had it, says the author. Not so, says Kitty Owen, so long as companies take advantage of new ways to reach out to people.

Trust Me, PR is Dead
Robert Phillips
Unbound, pounds 20

Trust Me, PR is Dead is a delicious dissection of the world I have recently entered, told through the stories of one of its most experienced veterans, Robert Phillips, one-time European chief executive of Edelman, the world's largest PR firm.

As the macabre subheading tells you, 'PR is dead. Few will mourn its passing'. The PR industry, Phillips argues, operates on a broken business model which, particularly in the largest agencies, is no longer workable.

One of the threats to the future relevance of the industry he identifies is its lack of proper data and evaluation (he, like many, no longer supports the counting of media column inches and the use of AVE, advertising-value-equivalent, as a measure of PR's value). Tied to this is the difficulty of holding PR accountable for the work it undertakes This makes it difficult to justify its role in, for example, a boardroom, where everything comes down to the impact on budgets and the bottom line.

What I had hoped would be a book about an industry disrupted was in fact a book with its sense of story dislocated. Often the arguments are very hard to follow because of the fragmented nature of the narrative and a lack of structure to his arguments. Phillips jumps around from issue to issue and the punctuation with anecdotes breaks the flow and is irritating.

And then there is the naming and shaming. Or lack of it. At one point, Phillips accuses a character within his book of name-dropping. This author isn't shy of doing the same, although not in the normal sense Thick black lines appear on page after page; there is more redaction here than a secret service report. I found this annoying and pretentious. Rarely did Phillips's redacted story or anecdote add anything but remind you of his previous influence with global CEOs, chairmen and politicians.

A further disruptive factor is a series of 'Wise Crowd Contributor' articles that appear periodically throughout. In their own right, these are interesting pieces but, within the already staccato narrative, they only serve to distract the reader from the points Phillips is making. …

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