ICCO Europe – Combating Misinformation

On Thursday 6th June, ICCO European members gathered in Rome, with the theme of combating misinformation running throughout the day culminating in an open debate. PR association leaders from fifteen countries were represented and have all agreed to work collaboratively on tackling this issue through affiliations with international institutions, journalism bodies and lawmakers. More detail will follow from ICCO in the coming weeks but for now, some of the insights are available below.

Full event slide deck

European Council slides

European Council article

 

PR agencies must acknowledge common ground to enhance our professional standing

Jon Meakin – Chair, AMEC Agency Group, and Global Head of Strategic Services, Grayling

PR agency people are a strange breed – and I say that as a longstanding member of that tribe myself.

We are full of contradictions: Fiercely competitive with one another, and with rival agencies, but at the same time extremely fickle, very often willing to jump ship to one of those rivals for a fancy new title, a salary bump, or some other perceived advancement.

But throw a few folk from different agencies together in a bar, and with enough (ahem) lubrication we soon discover that our agencies aren’t so different, after all. We all struggle with the same pressures and challenges – attracting and retaining good staff, adapting to a rapidly and continually changing media landscape, maintaining profitability when clients are expected to do more with less… not to mention the egos, the personalities, the petty politics. As a colleague of mine is fond of saying: “Same sh*t, different logo”.

That is not to say agencies do not cultivate distinct cultures, value propositions and services – they do. But let’s face it: There is much more that unites us than divides us.

Giving it all away

One common gripe in the agency world is the expectation that we should pitch for free. And it’s true, an awful lot of work goes into every new business pitch. Tens of thousands in staff hours, as well as hard costs, and an expectation that we should effectively give away our strategic thinking and our best creative ideas for free, in the hope that we will be appointed following an often long and torturous pitch process.

Personally, I think that’s just the cost of doing business. You have to speculate to accumulate, and there are plenty of other industries where much more is invested in speculative sales pitches.

But what I do find bizarre is that once we have been hired, we often continue to give away our most valuable strategic thinking – voluntarily.

I’m talking about measurement and evaluation.

Recognizing the value of our efforts

I’m making a generalization here, but for the most part, measurement and evaluation is not something we do well in the PR profession.

For years I’ve seen “measurement and evaluation” lumped in with “account management” during the budgeting process, and that part of the budget squeezed to a minimum because we want to devote as much of the budget as possible to execution. And then the “measurement” actually ends up being little more than “reporting”, invariably left to an intern or junior account executive to do little more than count clippings and calculate “total reach” in some backward-looking report that we call an evaluation, but actually isn’t.

Sound familiar?

Why are so many of us so afraid to budget for, and undertake real evaluation, that analyses outcomes and impacts, and not merely outputs? That becomes the basis for informing future strategies instead of simply being a look back at recent history? That acknowledges what has not worked, as well as what has, so that we can make intelligent decisions and continually improve?

PR: The poor relation

There are probably as many reasons for this as there are agencies, but it mostly boils down to a few key factors:

Firstly, we (and our clients) are prisoners of our own experience – we’ve always done things in a certain way, so there is a resistance to change.

Secondly, there is a skills question. When I and my peers came up through the profession, the importance of writing was drummed into us above all else. And we continue to recruit in our own image, hiring wordsmiths when we also need data scientists (as well as coders, film-makers, graphic designers…).

And then there’s the question of budget, which is a circular one: PR budgets are often modest, so we don’t set aside budget to measure and evaluate, and therefore we can’t prove whether what we did worked or not, so budgets remain small… and so it goes on. And PR remains the poor relation of the marketing mix.

It’s time to break that cycle.

Common Ground

It’s time to acknowledge that in the area of measurement and evaluation, perhaps more than any other, we have much in common, and much to learn from each other, if we could but check our egos and put aside those rivalries.

I am proud to be spearheading ‘Common Ground’, a new initiative by AMEC (The Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication) to further the adoption of best practice measurement and evaluation within the PR agency sector.

How are we going to achieve that? By creating a forum through which agency people can speak to, and learn from each other, in a non-competitive environment.

Radical? Maybe. Bonkers? I think not. No, I firmly believe we all have something to learn from each other. There are so many issues common to all agencies: How to persuade clients (especially those with modest resources) to invest in measurement and evaluation? How much should that investment be? Is there a minimum?

How do you bring about a change of culture within your agency, to embrace the value and importance of robust measurement and evaluation? In particular, how do evaluation advocates within agencies persuade colleagues to ‘sacrifice’ a proportion of a client’s fee to allocate to measurement and evaluation? And how much should that be, especially for smaller clients?

How can we educate clients and move them away from old-fashioned models and metrics?

How do you measure effectively for clients on a shoestring budget?

How do you build an in-house measurement or insights practice from the ground up?

Which measurement and evaluation companies are best for what sort of client? Which tools are best used for which metrics?

How can we stop measurement being backward-looking, and make evaluation a forward-looking planning tool, prescriptive rather than descriptive?

Time to show our hand

Why should agencies give away their ‘secret sauce’ to their competitors? News flash: There is no secret sauce.

Different agencies certainly approach measurement and evaluation in slightly different ways, but the principles are the same. Best practice exists – and is freely available on the AMEC website for any agency that wants to adopt it.

And if you don’t believe me, ask my peers at Fleishman-Hillard, Golin, H+K, Ketchum, Mischief, The RED Consultancy… they are all in on the Common Ground initiative, and want to share their knowledge, their skills and their experience for the benefit of the whole profession.

Through AMEC, we will be organizing events and sharing content in the coming months, in London, New York, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Dubai and elsewhere. For details check the AMEC website or drop me an email – we’d love to have you involved.

It’s time to come together to raise the standard of measurement and evaluation throughout the PR agency world. Let’s find that common ground, and build upon it.

If you would like to get involved in the AMEC Agency Group’s Common Ground initiative, please email AMEC Agency Group chair, Jon Meakin jon.meakin@grayling.com, or AMEC managing director, Johna Burke johna@amecorg.com.

Visit the House of PR at Cannes Lions Festival on Wednesday 19th June at 11am to join a discussion about the Common Ground initiative.

ICCO Mid-Year Round Up with Elise Mitchell, ICCO President

Elise Mitchell, ICCO President provides a round up of all the newly latest member benefits, projects and events for 2019!

Highlights include

*NEW* ICCO Resource Library Launch – here

*Biggest Ever* Cannes Lions #HouseofPR ,  June 17th -21st here

*NEW* Agency Finder – coming soon!

#PowerofEthics – September 2019

ICCO Global Summit, 9th -10th October 2019

 

ICCO Africa Group (IAG) meets in Kigali, Rwanda

The first meeting of the ICCO Africa Group (IAG) took place on Monday 13th May 2019, ahead of the APRA Conference in Kigali, Rwanda.

The group comprised of representatives from national PR associations, institutes and societies across Africa with the purpose of discussing opportunities for collaboration, sharing of information, ideas and resources. The next aim to discuss how to share and promote the best creative, successful African PR campaigns, case studies and work to the rest of the world.

The group agreed the following actions and initiatives:

Professional Development

  • ICCO to work with IAG representatives in order to develop face to face training courses in hubs across the continent, starting with Lagos. This training will be developed from
  • ICCO courses in consultation with local representatives for relatable examples. Local associations and societies will manage the marketing of courses to secure maximum attendee levels and help reduce costs.
  • We will start with “Crisis Communications in a Digital World” and
    “Award winner Masterclass sessions”
  • ICCO to offer a discount to APRA members for online training and videos.

Research and Resources

  • ICCO to promote existing online resources to APRA members and members of other PR associations and institutes.
  • Research conducted in Africa to be promoted to the rest of the world through ICCO Library.
  • Research to be conducted jointly between PRCA, ICCO and African PR organisations in order to get larger data samples and produce more accurate results.

Raising the profile of African PR in the Rest of the World

  • ICCO to review costs for entering Global Awards will offer discounts for local award winners. The goal is making sure individual nations of Africa gain more recognition, distinct from the continent as a whole.
  • ICCO, with PRCA, APRA and IAG members, will create and promote courses and guides on “How to win global awards” using videos and guidance from SABRE Africa winners and Cannes Lions winners.
  • ICCO will offer special discount to APRA members to attend the ICCO Global Summit in Lisbon and procure speakers on topics beyond the analysis of the African Market.
    Raising profile of PR to leaders in Africa
  • ICCO will look to support and amplify the coverage of existing efforts by APRA to raise awareness of PR at events like the African CEO Forum and other non-PR specific events attended by politicians and leaders.
  • ICCO will amplify coverage and message of APRA relationship with African Union as a model of practical influencing.

Standards and Ethics

  • ICCO will target existing ICCO members from networked agencies like Edelman to drive the adoption of best practice standards across the group and affiliates, including use of self-assessment and business improvement tools like CMS. With long-term aim of these practices being adopted across markets locally.
  • The IAG members will engage their communities, agencies and consultants to take part on “#POWERofETHICS” in September. An online social media campaign to promote case studies of ethical PR and PRing ethics through blogs, guidance pieces and events e.g. interview with the award-winning Anti Child Abuse campaign from Ogilvy Ghana.
  • The ICCO Africa Group has agreed participants from Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda as well as associations APRA, PRISA (Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa) and PRCA MENA (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt) with more to come and all nations of Africa welcome. We plan to continue communication to achieve the above goals and meet again in May next year in Accra, Ghana ahead of the APRA 2020 conference.

Going forward this collaborative initiative will be run by Bridget Von Holdt, ICCO Africa President and Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, APRA President.

To find out more about the ICCO Africa Group, please contact Rob Morbin, ICCO General Manager, rob.morbin@iccopr.com

PRCA appoints Barry Leggetter as International President

The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) has appointed Barry Leggetter FPRCA as its first International President, as part of its plans to build on its position as the world’s largest PR professional body, and to move into new regions of the world.

Leggetter has spent more than 25 years in international public relations consultancy during which he was UK CEO for three global firms (Porter Novelli, FleishmanHillard, and GolinHarris), and was also International Chairman of Bite.  He also held the role of CEO of AMEC, which he left after 11 years in December 2018. Leggetter was the winner of the 2018 PRCA Mark Mellor Award for Outstanding Contribution to the PR industry, and the AMEC Don Bartholomew Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Communications Measurement and Evaluation industry. He is a Fellow of the PRCA and the CIPR.

Leggetter will begin his role at the PRCA on 25th February, 2019. In the new role, he will focus on international membership development, and will work with Francis Ingham MPRCA, Director General, PRCA, to grow existing PRCA regional offices in South East Asia and Middle East & North Africa; and to create new associations in other regions of the world. Leggetter will also focus on improving the commercial value of PRCA’s work, including its responsibility for delivering the ICCO Global Summit and the ICCO Global Awards.

Francis Ingham MPRCA, Director General, PRCA, and Chief Executive, ICCO, said: “Barry Leggetter will be a fundamental part of the PRCA’s drive to build on our status as the world’s largest PR association, and to expand our offering to other parts of the world. He will transform us from an international organisation to a truly global one.

“Barry is a proven leader with a global perspective for driving engagement and real change and I am personally delighted he has joined us – the clearest possible sign of our intent to continue to grow globally.”

Barry Leggetter FPRCA, International President, PRCA, said: “I’m very excited to be a part of this new challenge to help grow the PRCA and ICCO’s already impressive global reach. The PR and communications industry is increasingly international in its outlook, so it’s only right that the PRCA should be working hard to position the UK at its heart. I am delighted to be joining Francis and the team.”

ENDS

 

For further information contact:

 

Francis Ingham MPRCA

Director General, PRCA,

francis.ingham@prca.org.uk

 

Barry Leggetter FPRCA

barryleggetter@outlook.com

07748 677 504

 

Matt Cartmell MPRCA

Deputy Director General

matt.cartmell@prca.org.uk

07930 485 333

 

About the PRCA

Who we are: Founded in 1969, the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) is a UK-based PR and communications membership body, operating in 66 countries around the world. We represent in excess of 30,000 people across the whole range of the PR and communications industry. The PRCA promotes all aspects of public relations and communications work, helping teams and individuals maximise the value they deliver to clients and organisations.

What we do: The Association exists to raise standards in PR and communications, providing members with industry data, facilitating the sharing of communications best practice and creating networking opportunities.

How we do it and make a difference: All PRCA members are bound by a professional charter and codes of conduct, and benefit from exceptional training. The Association also works for the greater benefit of the industry, sharing best practice and lobbying on the industry’s behalf e.g. fighting the NLA’s digital licence.

Don’t Cry Wolf join ICCO House of PR in Cannes

Don’t Cry Wolf have become the first ever start up agency to be a platinum sponsor of ICCO’s House of PR at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. They join WE Communications and FlieshmanHillard as the first three to confirm for the 2019 festival.

Francis Ingham, Chief Executive, ICCO said

“For the past five years, the ICCO House of PR has offered PR pros at Cannes a base to come together and exchange ideas on creativity. Previously, it’s only been global agencies that have been present here -so it’s fantastic to welcome the presence of our first-ever start up agency official sponsor. Don-t Cry Wolf -a true leader of the pack.”

John Brown, Founder and CEO, Don’t Cry Wolf has said

“It’s not just about the rosé!”

“We’ve got something to share about how creativity can, and should, be nurtured with social good in mind. Also, we want to discuss how a creative agency can be run with a net positive impact on the environment and society.

So, we’ll be curating a day at Cannes Lions where Don’t Cry Wolf and some of our B Corp buddies, both agency and brand side, will be taking the stage to talk about creating campaigns with an eye on improving society. We’ll also explore purpose washing and how organisations have to change their setup first before they start banging on about positive outcomes.”

ICCO will be rallying the industry once again at our Cannes Uncovered event on 30th January to preview changes to Cannes in 2019 and provide some expert advice for judges to ensure PR winners across the board in June. Details here.

The House of PR is the independent hub for PR professionals at Cannes Lions to meet, work, relax, learn, and have fun. Attracting the biggest names in PR throughout the week, it’s also a perfect cost-effective way to host your own events, workshops, seminars, drinks receptions, or showcase work and technology in the heart of the festival.
This year we have a space that is five times bigger, allowing for larger events, displays, and workshops. ICCO is an official sponsor of Cannes Lions giving the House of PR sponsors exposure, credibility, and a direct connection with the competition.

For more information of the ICCO House of PR at Cannes Lions 2019 contact rob.morbin@iccopr.com

Omar Qirem announced as new PRCA MENA Chairman and ICCO Middle East President

Omar Qirem, Chief Executive Officer, Edelman Middle East will succeed Loretta Ahmed FPRCA, CEO Middle, Turkey and Africa, Grayling at the head of the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) MENA, the leading PR association for the region.

 

Upon assuming this role, Omar will also take over from Loretta as the region’s champion at the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO), the global PR association. Omar will be one of five Regional Presidents at ICCO, led by overall President Elise Mitchell and Chief Executive Francis Ingham. ICCO membership includes over 3,000 PR and communications agencies in 66 countries.

 

Upon being announced, Omar Qirem said:

 

“I am honored to be taking up the role of PRCA MENA Chairman and look forward to continuing the good work of Loretta Ahmed. My personal commitment is to continue to support our members and communication agencies across the Middle East and North Africa to grow and evolve, while contributing to the development of the industry in the region.

 

“I’m also relishing the opportunity to be the Middle East Region President for ICCO, ensuring this dynamic part of the world has an active role in shaping the global voice of PR.”

 

Loretta Ahmed added:

 

“PRCA MENA is now well established with the support of a strong membership base, a busy programme of events and our third annual PRCA MENA awards around the corner. I look forward to giving my continued support through our own agency membership as PRCA MENA grows and evolves, providing agencies and in-house members across the region with its unique blend of international insights and local events and networking programmes”

 

ICCO Chief Executive and PRCA MENA Director General Francis Ingham MPRCA commented:

 

“Loretta’s contribution as founding Chairman of PRCA MENA and as ICCO’s first Middle East President has been outstanding, and I’d like to thank her for everything that she’s done over the past three years. I look forward to working just as closely with Omar as we continue to represent the region’s PR practitioners, and to grow both organisations’ footprints and activities.”

 

ICCO’s next bi-annual board meeting will for the first time take place in Dubai on Tuesday 12th February, with the annual PRCA MENA awards taking place the following evening on Wednesday 13th February. Sandwiched between these two events, The Holmes Report will be running their Innovation Summit at The Renaissance Hotel in Downtown Dubai.

 

PRCA MENA is the leading PR association for MENA, with a network covering PR and communications across 13 countries within the region.

 

ENDS

ICCO announces winners of its Global Awards 2018 and inductees to Hall of Fame

The annual ICCO Global Awards saw winners take away awards in 19 categories at an event which celebrated the best of global communications.

The black-tie event brought together leading communications experts from across the globe at the Landmark Hotel in London on the evening of 5th December, and was hosted by TV presenter Juliet Mann.

Big winners on the night included Mischief, which won the Media Relations award for work with Lego; and the Technology award for the Waistcoat’s Coming Home campaign with Huawei. FleishmanHillard took home Network of the Year for the Americas; and the PR Leader of the Year Award was handed to Jim Donaldson and Ali Gee, who jointly lead FleishmanHillard Fishburn in London.

This year’s Rising Star of the Year was handed to Saikat Pyne, of Paytm in India.

Francis Ingham, Chief Executive, ICCO, said: “Once again, the ICCO Global Awards represents the leading global PR and communications work. The quality and standard of every entry into the awards this year has truly exceeded expectations. Huge congratulations to all those who are taking home an award tonight, I look forward to seeing all of you again next year.”

Barri Rafferty, partner, president and CEO of Ketchum, and Andrey Barannikov CEO of SPN Communications became the 35th and 36th inductees into the ICCO Hall of Fame, an accolade that celebrates exceptional contribution to the PR Industry.

The ICCO Hall of Fame (HoF) was established in 2003 at the ICCO Global Summit held in Berlin. The ICCO community felt there was a need to recognise and honour people who have made exceptional progress in the internationalisation of the public relations industry, who have combined cultural sensitivity with commercial acumen and have enhanced the discipline and expanded the scope of public relations activity globally.

On accepting the award, Andrey Barannikov said ““I am very happy to adjoin such a fantastic group of communicators such as Harold Burson and Daniel Edelman. It’s a great achievement for the whole Russian industry, which developed very quickly in the last 25 years and it’s a great honour to be the first Russian inducted into the Hall of Fame. Thank you to everybody who nominated me and great thanks to the team of SPN Communications – without their support I would not be able to achieve this accolade.”

Barri Rafferty said “I am honored to be inducted into the ICCO Hall of Fame. This recognition encompasses the work of those at Ketchum who have a restless quest for new approaches; who are smart, bold thinkers who challenge the status quo, and who inspire our clients and one another every day. My thanks to them and to ICCO for this recognition,”

The full list of winners is as follows:

B2B
Man Bites Dog
Korn Ferry Global Talent Crunch

Broadcast
MSL Group
Medlife – The first brain surgery broadcasted in LIVE 360 VR from Romania

Consumer
Hotwire
Even Divas Stay In Hostels

Crisis and Issues
Civil Aviation Authority
Monarch Airlines: Britain’s biggest peacetime repatriation

CSR
IKEA Italy
No Room for Violence

Digital and New Media
Emanate GmbH
Burger King Deutschland GmbH – BK Loving ‘IT’

Healthcare
Ketchum
NSC: Prescribed to Death

Independent Consultancy of the Year Americas
MWWPR

Independent Consultancy of the Year Asia-Pacific
Value 360

Independent Consultancy of the Year EMEA
Geelmuyden Kiese

Media Relations
Mischief
Lego: Happy Birthday Brick

Not for Profit
RICE Communications
Speaking up for the voiceless: Voices for Momos with WWF – Myanmar

PR Leader(s) of the Year
Jim Donaldson and Ali Gee
FleishmanHillard Fishburn

Regional Network of the Year Americas
FleishmanHillard

Regional Network of the Year APAC
Weber Shandwick

Regional Network of the Year EMEA
Hill+Knowlton Strategies

Rising Star of the Year
Saikat Pyne, Paytm

Technology
Mischief
Waistcoat’s Coming Home

Hall of Fame
Barri Rafferty, Ketchum
Andrey Barannikov, SPN Communications

ICCO launches World PR Report 2018-2019: “Our time in the sun is now -and in the years to come”

The ICCO World PR Report 2018-2019 released today reveals agency heads in every region of the world predict increased profitability this year compared with last year.

The World PR Report 2018-2019 was launched by International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) Chief Executive Francis Ingham on Tuesday 27th November at a combined ICCO-PRCA Southeast Asia-AMEC conference in Singapore at 12:00 SGT (04:00 GMT); and then at events across the world.

For the past five years, the ICCO World PR Report has surveyed agency heads to take the temperature of the global PR industry, and to identify areas of growth; expectations for investment; and future challenges. The findings are reported both as global trends, but also region-specific results. The Report also includes the Holmes Top 250 Agency Rankings.

Key findings include:
On a scale of 1-10, the global average for optimism is 7.7, on a par with last year (7.8). The most optimistic markets are Africa (7.9) and Asia (7.8). The least are the Middle East (6.6) and Eastern Europe (6.6).

When asked about expectations of profitability, the global average is 6.9, compared to 6.4 last year. Asia came in highest with a score of 7.7, followed by Western Europe at 7.2. Africa came in lowest at 6.1.

Corporate reputation is cited by agency heads as a function set to grow over the next twelve months. 44% also predict growth in digital/online communications; with 39% citing social responsibility as an area of growth.

Social media community management tops the list of areas that should expect increased investment over the next few years, at 43%. This is followed by multimedia content creation (41%), and digital build and production (35%).

On the subject of measurement, the Report reveals that 48% of global respondents do not ever use AVEs, up from 44% in 2017. The main global reason given for the continued minority’s use of AVEs is that it is expected by clients (26%). The existence of AVEs is highest in the Middle East, where only 15% report that they do not ever use them.

The biggest challenges identified were clients not committing sufficient funds (38%) and clients being too short-term focused (34%). Retaining key staff is the top talent specific challenge (61%).

Francis Ingham, Chief Executive, ICCO, said: “In every region of the world, agencies expect to be more profitable this year than last. And given the uncertain times in which we work, that speaks volumes. CEOs continue to increase financial investment in their corporate reputation, while investor activism and social media transparency have intensified the focus on delivering not just good numbers, but doing so with integrity. These trends have helped fuel a demand for senior counsel.

“Clients not committing sufficient funds relates clearly to our inability to still fully prove our value. And that in turn relates to our under-investment in evaluation. But we should also acknowledge progress here. In every region of the world, those saying AVEs are their preferred method of evaluation has fallen. Evaluation becomes more sophisticated with each passing year. While there is more work to be done, much progress has been made.

“All around the world, PR is growing in size and in influence. Our time in the sun is now -and in the years to come.”
Barry Leggetter, CEO, AMEC, added: “Every year the ICCO World PR Report gives us more encouragement that the global education programme to show PR professionals the business benefits of using evaluation is working. AMEC will continue to partner with ICCO and PRCA to persuade the PR industry to invest more in evaluation, because only then will PR firms be able to fully prove their value to clients.”

Sarah Hall, Founder and Editor, #FuturePRoof, commented: “It’s encouraging to see that public relations is booming in every market around the world. Organisations recognise our value in engaging with stakeholders to build trust and reputation, and help organisations tell their story through content.

“ICCO’s analysis shows that agencies have firmly got to grips with the paid, earned, shared and owned media model. Earned and owned media typically lead with paid and shared used to drive amplification or performance.

“However it’s not all good news. Budgets and talent remains a challenge. Agencies need to take an agile approach to managing staff.”

The Global Women in PR (GWPR) survey results are also contained within the report, with family commitments being identified as the biggest barrier to women reaching leadership positions.
“Fundamental to changing this is to have better flexible working policies in place, yet only 67% of organisations allow employees to work from home on a regular basis,” said Angela Oakes, Joint President of GWPR, also citing parental leave as an issue. “Though most organisations have parental leave policies in place, three quarters of those that take this are women.”

Download the World PR Report 2018-2019 here

PR Is Where It Was Always Meant To Be

Maja Pawinska Sims, Editor, Holmes Report

For the Original article on The Holmes Report, click here.

DUBLIN — The public relations industry has never been closer to being what it was always meant to be, according to Fleishman Hillard global CEO John Saunders.

Speaking at the International Communications Consultancies Organisations (ICCO) Global Summit in Dublin this week, Saunders said he is now frequently told by clients that PR has never been more important than it is today, and impacts on every decision they make: “Time and again I hear that the work we do for our clients is essential. In my opinion our profession is in a very good place.”

In a bullish speech, Saunders said the shift in consumer expectations of business, in particular the requirement for businesses to take a stand on social and political issues, was a major driver of PR’s strong position: “It’s harder and harder to remain neutral. Even if a company wants to stay neutral they should at least be prepared if they are forced to take a stand, and helping them is squarely in PR’s wheelhouse.

“There’s a terrific opportunity to elevate our role: we’re now brand navigators. It’s what PR was always meant to be: we’re guiding companies through how they are going to act, not just messaging and channels.”

Saunders referenced P&G chief marketing officer Marc Pritchard speaking to the Holmes Report in August, when Pritchard said: “There used to be a lot of discussion about having a seat at the table. But I hear that less, because more PR pros are grabbing the wheel and showing their creative brilliance.”

And he said there was no “silver bullet” for public relations: “Advertising is fundamentally changing and the advertising world is in turmoil trying to come to grips with everything from how to price media buying to how the ad world deals with Google and Facebook. All over the place I see people looking for a silver bullet for PR too. There is no silver bullet. Whether you are independent or part of a holding company, the firms that win are the ones with the best talent.”

On the ongoing debate of whether the PR industry needs to find another way of describing itself, Saunders said: “I’m OK with being called a PR guy. It will be very difficult to come up with something that sticks better with clients and the public.”