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Trust Me, PR is Dead

The Former EMEA President and CEO of the world’s largest PR firm on the end of PR by Robert Phillips

This book is published, but you can still pledge for rewards!

Trust Me, PR is Dead cover

The Synopsis

Trust Me, PR is Dead is a book about a whole lot more than Public Relations.

The death of PR is used to symbolise the inevitable demise of many traditional, disrupted industries and disciplines – from media to publishing, law to diplomacy, internal comms. to leadership itself. Public Relations is hardly alone in sleepwalking over the cliff.

The book charts the rise of individual empowerment – the continued shift from state to citizen, employer to employee, corporation to citizen-consumer – that has made power and influence activist, atomised and asymmetrical. It places radical honesty and radical transparency at the heart of business today and argues that the age of command-and-control hierarchies and carefully manicured, happy endings is over.

Meanwhile, the Public Relations industry has abused and exhausted trust, often sought as the holy grail of many brands and organisations. Trust is not a function of PR. It is an outcome, not a message. Trust is deeply behavioural, complex and fragile and hard-won every day, by actions, not words.  The revolutionary times in which we live means that there will never be a return to “old trust”. New strategies are therefore needed that speak to the world of tomorrow, not the world of yesterday.

It is within this context that future communications must be considered and delivered.

Trust Me, PR is Dead is part-analysis and part future-facing polemic. It includes nearly 200 anecdotes and tales from the practitioner front-line as well as interviews with key business figures, politicians and commentators - and numerous detailed, researched case studies from companies and movements as diverse as Unilever, Novo Nordisk, John Lewis Partnership, Handelsbanken, Patagonia, Mondragon, 38 Degrees and Porto Alegre.  It is illustrated with both good and bad practice, using global examples. Above all, it calls for new models of leadership and accountability in business - and in politics, too – and discusses the navigation skills and tools required for organisations to be survive and thrive.

Public Leadership, Public Value and a New Social Democracy

At the heart of Trust Me, PR is Dead is a proposed new model of Public Leadership and new accountability metrics, based on Public Value. Public Leadership is characterised as activist, co-produced, citizen-centric and society-first.

The book argues for a new social democracy, well beyond the traditional clichés of social media, not least in the workplace. It is social because it is of and among real people, and democratic because it gives voice to all. Public Leadership returns ‘purpose’ to the core of business and addresses the core issue of trust.

Public Leadership urges enlightened leaders to promote participation and freedom over control and to think and behave like social activists themselves. Public Leaders facilitate the activism of others, effectively co-producing leadership. The company of the future is a de facto social movement - its communications function comprising a network of highly connected community organisers, each with dedicated areas of expertise. There is no need for conventional Corporate Social Responsibility – “purpose” becomes part of an open, shared manifesto.

The new model of Public Leadership is measured through Public Value. This fuses the Aristotelian notion of Common Good and an evolved interpretation of Harvard professor Michael Porter’s much-trumpeted Shared Value. Every organisation will have its unique version – and its own manifesto – precisely because Public Value is better co-produced with wise crowds of employees, customers and stakeholders. This becomes the anchor for its accountability to the many, not the few – the 99 per cent. A bank that thinks in terms of Public Value outcomes, for example, quickly addresses the challenge of being “socially useless”, while Public Value thinking determines better frameworks for ethical and trusted decision making.

If Everything is Dead, What Comes Next?

Trust Me, PR is Dead has been crowdfunded via Unbound. The voices of the book’s supporters can be heard throughout the book, which also includes nine “wise crowd contributor” essays, including Professor Cliff Oswick on the death of leadership; Sanofi Pasteur’s Celine Schillinger on the death of the anti-social corporation; Compass’ Neal Lawson on the death of party politics; Ambassador Richard Fletcher on the death of old diplomacy; and Jim Woods on the death of the focus group and the rise of the wise crowd. It closes with a piece from the book’s publisher Dan Kieran – on the death of publishing itself. Each contributor, following the main theme of Trust Me, PR is Dead, offers an exciting and optimistic view of new models and behaviours that will flourish in the creative economies and polities of the future.

The Excerpt

You can't write that.

“Why not? It’s the truth.”

“It may well be the truth, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get sued.”

“Isn’t there a certain irony in a book about the end of PR not being able to tell the truth?”


Such are the perils of having a libel lawyer for a sister.


The Reviews

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The Author

Robert Phillips is Head of Chambers at Jericho Chambers; a Visiting Professor at Cass Business School, London; and co-author of Citizen Renaissance (2008). Robert has been working at the leading edge of communications since co-founding Jackie Cooper Public Relations in 1987. A former (EMEA) President & CEO of Edelman, the world’s largest Public Relations firm - and Global Chair of its Public Engagement & Future Strategies group – he has been advising global corporations and writing, publishing and speaking on the future of communications for over 25 years. In 2013, Robert co-founded Jericho Chambers and launched the Progressive Communications Network to promote the transformative agenda and to help business make real the ideas of radical honesty and radical transparency. Jericho Chambers speaks to communication through action, not words, and the fact that corporations will most likely need to change their behaviours before they change their comms. Robert stands resolutely against the tired deceits of spin and the mythology of the silver bullet of trust. Trust Me, PR is Dead offers his answers to the communications challenges posed by the complex, real worlds of today. “We are all naked now – so we might as well look good” (Mo Ibrahim)


Mick Howarth
Mick Howarth asked:

When do I actually get my hardback copy? have I missed something?

Unbound replies:

Hi Mick,

Thanks for getting in touch. We've just sent the books to the printer and are aiming to have these dispatched to subscribers in April. I hope this helps and thanks for supporting Robert and Unbound.

Best wishes,

Caitlin - Unbound Community Coordinator

Owain Betts
Owain Betts asked:

Hi. I have pledged but not received my book yet. Can you advise on when it might be delivered?

Unbound replies:

Hi Owain,

Thanks for getting in touch and sorry to hear that your book hasn't arrived. I'll chase this up with our distributors now.

Best wishes,

Caitlin - Community Coordinator

Hal Robinson
Hal Robinson asked:

Hi Robert, congratulations on publishing (well, on writing too) such a timely book; my question is actually more for the publisher, however. It's simple (or I'm being simple): how can I actually buy the book? Can I get it directly from you? Or directly from Unbound? Or must I seek out the proverbial good bookshop?

Unbound replies:

Hi Hal,

Thanks for getting in touch. We've sold out of the special hardback editions, but you can get hold of the paperback trade version (when the book is officially out later this week) from most good bookstores, direct from our distribution partners ( or from other online retailers.

If there is anything else I can help you with please do get in touch via

Best wishes,

Caitlin - Community Coordinator

The Rewards

This book is now published. You can still pledge, but you won't get listed as a supporter in the back.

e-book edition and access to the author’s shed
1st edition hardback, e-book edition and access to the author’s shed
Sold out
Signed 1st edition hardback, e-book edition and access to the author’s shed
Sold out
Launch Party
2 tickets to the launch party (in London), 1st edition hardback, e-book edition and access to the author’s shed
Sold out
Lunch with Robert, 2 invitations to the launch party, signed 1st edition hardback, e-book edition and access to the author’s shed
Sold out
1 hour consultancy session with Robert, signed 1st edition hardback, e-book edition and access to the author’s shed
Sold out
Guest Blog
Robert will contribute a guest blog on your website, signed 1st edition hardback, e-book edition and access to the author’s shed
Sold out
Communications Strategy
Robert will work for you for one week reviewing/revising or re-thinking your communications strategy, signed 1st edition hardback, e-book edition and access to the author’s shed (Not for profit organisations only)
Sold out
  • Format: Paper Back
  • ISBN: 978-1-78352-083-1
  • Published: 06/2015
  • Format: Signed hardback
  • ISBN: 978-1-78352-084-8
  • Published: 03/2015
  • Format: hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-78352-084-8