FutureComms15: Trust Me, PR is Dead – Interview – Robert Phillips

Robert Phillips (@CitizenRobert) was EMEA President of Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm, when he stepped down in November 2012 citing his disillusionment with both the company and the industry as a whole – so disillusioned he decided to write a book.

In his book, published this year, Phillips slams the PR industry for failing to adapt to a changing world. He asserts that it is stuck employing generalists in outdated hierarchical structures when businesses are demanding specialist knowledge and skill. And he claims there is little concern for the lack of professional standards or proven value.

Robert is the author of Trust Me, PR Is Dead (Unbound, 2015). He is also the co-founder of Jericho Chambers; a Visiting Professor at Cass Business School, London; co-author of Citizen Renaissance (2008).

He was formerly President and CEO, EMEA, of Edelman, the world’s largest Public Relations firm, and Global Chair of its Public Engagement & Future Strategies group. Robert counsels companies at senior level. Client experience includes: AkzoNobel, Aviva, Capital & Counties plc, Diageo, KPMG, Microsoft, O2, Shell, Sony and Unilever. He fundamentally believes that Public Relations is dead, and that Permanent Engagement, Public Leadership and Public Value are the future.

Here are some points from the interview:

1. Robert says that PR has a brand problem, PRs like estate agents aren’t trusted.

2. The PR industry isn’t dead, but needs to change as it has a brand problem. The “pale, male and stale” PRs need to move aside.

3. AVE is a joke and can’t be used. It just shows why PRs can’t be trusted.

4. Content marketing gives the PR industry an excuse to not get it’s shit together – interesting point from Robert.

5. We are in the truth business – it is not okay to spin anymore. Look at Thomas Cook and their values and mission on their website, it is a fucking joke.

6. Robert was challenged by Rachel from AllThingsIC on the value on internal communications.

7. The book wasn’t intended to be a handbook or guide for PR. He says that he couldn’t work with the publishing industry as they are so stuck in the past.

In summary, Robert says he wanted to provoke debate with the book and boy has he done that!





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