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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.
Robert Phillips is the co-founder of Jericho Chambers and author of Trust Me, PR is Dead (Unbound 2015), described as a “game-changer for the future of communications” and “a thrilling revelation” (Huffington Post). Robert advises global organisations on communications, leadership and trust in a post-PR world. Jericho Chambers is championing radical new models of stakeholder engagement, based on principles of co-production and vulnerability, activism and dissent.
Having spent 25 years at the top of the global Public Relations industry, Robert quit his job as Chief Executive for Europe, the Middle East & Africa of Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm, and Global Chair of its Public Engagement & Future Strategies group because, in his own words, he “no longer believed in what he was doing”.
Throughout his career, Robert has been committed to making a difference and helping brands and organisations create positive social impact. He works at the inter-section of business, politics and civil society where, in his words “the crisis of trust is a crisis of leadership”.
Robert has advised many FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies at Board and ExCo level. Present and past clients include AkzoNobel, Aviva, Capital & Counties Properties, CIPD, Diageo, KPMG, RICS, SAB Miller, Shell, Sony and Unilever. Robert’s belief is that substantive solutions must be found to address critical societal issues and that organisations should be judged on what they do, not what they say. The future can only be negotiated, not imposed.
Robert co-founded Jackie Cooper PR in 1987, having launched his first company two years earlier, while still at university. He sold JCPR to Edelman in 2004 and was UK CEO of Edelman from 2007 to 2010, twice winning Consultancy of the Year (while runner-up on a third occasion). He was CEO, EMEA, of Edelman from 2010 to 2012. Robert contributed to the annual Edelman Trust Barometer from 2007 to 2012.
Robert is a Visiting Professor at Cass Business School, City University, London and co-author of Citizen Renaissance (2008). He sits on the Advisory Board of the Forward Institute, is a Fellow of the RSA, a Fellow of the PRCA and a Trustee of The Creative Society.
He is a frequent public speaker and media commentator on leadership, communications and trust and an occasional contributor to Management Today, the UK’s leading business magazine.
“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.
- 23rd December 2016 2017: Let the light get in
“Forget your perfect offering”, wrote the poet Leonard Cohen, “there’s a crack in everything … that is how the light gets in”.
2016 was not the perfect offering. Cracks were plain for all to see. Democracy under threat; maybe in crisis. An anxious world.
We may not have reached the bottom yet. We share a collective responsibility in 2017 to escape the darkness, to rescue hope and optimism…22nd December 2016 2017: A Year of Tomorrow
Many of the themes we explored in Trust Me, PR is Dead exploded into ugly life in 2016 - from Farage, Brexit and Trump to Jeremy Corbyn's unlikely social movement that is Momentum. It gives me little comfort to have called it early - warning that the vacuum of leadership and the continued exclusion of the 99% would create challenges the likes of which we had not seen in generations.
What is to…28th June 2016 A Time of Disbelief
With emergence of Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican candidate in the US and the various mis-truths told by politicians campaigning for a Leave vote in the UK, politics and political leadership have sunk to a new low. It seems that it is now acceptable to lie or, as Michael Gove memorably said, to re-think "promises" only as "possibilities".
We should have seen it coming - the descent from…11th April 2016 If only David Cameron had read the book ....
..... he would not have spent a week trying to spin his way out of the mess (and failing miserably). Meanwhile, everyone is talking about trust once again - and mostly missing the point....
I have just published this short blog on www.jerichochambers.com:
http://www.jerichochambers.com/cameron-and-the-panama-papers-asking-for-more-trust-from-the-prime-minister-is-a-futile-gesture/14th February 2016 Trust Me, PR is Dead - One Year On
“Men on mountaintops, shouting through megaphones” is how KPMG’s Global Head of Tax Jane McCormick describes the old way of doing things. And it is usually men.
These words reverberate as I watch a Parliamentary Select Committee savage yet another senior executive. While compelling viewing, it seems to achieve little, except vent public frustration. Is that enough?
A barrister friend asks why…7th December 2015 The bankruptcy of corporate leadership?
Martin Vogel, co-founder of "counter-consultancy" Vogel Wakefield, published this review of Trust Me, PR is Dead last Friday.
I am hugely indebted. I think Martin captures the essence of the book and its arguments far more eloquently than I ever do....
Please feel free to…3rd December 2015 PR is Dead. Contradictions on the downfall of monarchy
The following is the text of the 2015 John Campbell Lecture, delivered on November 30 2015, on behalf of Republic – the campaign for an elected Head of State.
It is a privilege to deliver the 2015 John Campbell Lecture.
When it comes to the monarchy, I have three questions:
Can the British Royal family overcome the tectonic shifts of our time and defy logic to…9th September 2015 What Amazon says, goes
Publishing a book "properly" (as my mother puts it) teaches you many things - not least that there are quite a few people who insist on telling you what book you should have written, even though that was the book that you never intended to write. Some of them even heckle at conferences.
I make no apologies for not writing a tedious self-help book, even though I may have sold more at airports.…18th August 2015 Good business must challenge bad politics
Trust Me, PR is Dead includes a section on the ugliness of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and how this has been hijacked in recent years by a measurement- and compliance-obsessed business culture. For me, social responsibility in good businesses demands vision, leadership, compassion as well as a willingness to stand up to bad politics. Nowhere is this as important right now than on the challenging…15th July 2015 Radio Silence
Apologies for recent radio silence from the shed. June and July have been busy months on the road.
Here are a couple of short film excerpts.
The first was recorded for the European Association of Communications Directors annual forum in Brussels - a straight-to-camera riff on truth, trust & transarency. You can watch the video here.
The second is an interview recorded at Future Comms 2015…7th June 2015 Who Can You Trust?
“We act with integrity. We maintain the highest ethical standards and transparency in our work and in our dealings with customers, partners, stakeholders and fellow employees. We keep our commitments. We are honest, fair and trustworthy”.
This is the values statement of which company?
Thomas Cook is guilty of what some would call an Epic Failure.
…26th April 2015 Finding faith in business
Last week’s highlight was a thoughtful inter-faith dinner hosted at Magdalene College, Cambridge by Dr Rowan Williams - part of the on-going Responsible Tax project, curated by Think Tank CoVi and supported by KPMG.
The ‘F-word’ has never been far from the surface in months of discussions on responsible and ethical business practice. Some of the wisest words spoken have come less from business…20th April 2015 An "intellectual idealist" and "something less ordinary": two recent reviews.
Dear Supporters and Friends
A couple of recent reviews I thought worth sharing....
It looks as though the hardback edition of the book has now sold out - the paperback comes out in June. More on this soon.
With best wishes
Robert4th April 2015 Trust me, it's Easter
I am thrilled that nearly 300 supporters have this weekend - finally - received their Special Edition copies of Trust Me, PR is Dead. I hope everyone finds it provocative and funny in equal measure. I would of course love your continued feedback.
Just before Easter, I found myself metaphorically wedged between PM David Cameron and Labour's (shadow) Business spokesperson Chukka Umunna. The occasion…18th March 2015 Two quickies from me
I thought you might be interested in my most recent article for International Business Times:
If you get the chance, follow the link and listen to Bryan Stevenson on Desert Island Discs. His story is mesmerising and his commitment to the cause(s) more powerful still.
Also…2nd March 2015 Why purpose needs process
I have just posted this blog for Compass, the think tank for a good society:
We cannot help deliver a common good without a common realm in which to discuss it. No-one has all the answers and no-one has the right to own the debate. Adult-to-adult conversations are needed in business and politics…14th February 2015 Accusations of "sensationalism" may be understandable - but they are wrong
So, the week ended with a flurry of somewhat pointless exchanges in social media about the title of my book. The irony was not lost: two or three senior (PR) industry leaders agreeing with the substance of the argument but constantly taking issue with the title. Some are clearly reluctant to look beyond the headlines and opt for easy soundbites instead. They are maybe fearful of what lurks beneath…11th February 2015 "A passionate revelation on the road to Damascus" - Huffington Post review
Margaret Heffernan - a personal hero and the author of the quite brilliant Wilful Blindness and A Bigger Prize - has just posted this review on The Huffington Post.
I am really chuffed.5th February 2015 Have you downloaded your copy of Trust Me, PR Is Dead yet?
Just a quick note to all supporters.
You may not realise it, but the eBook is now available to download ...
It was released by publishers Unbound last week - due to demand :-). The special edition hardback will be with you in March.
To download, please sign-in to Unbound and go to the eBook section. You can then choose the format - Kindle, iBook etc. It will cost you nothing!
Three early…1st February 2015 First reviews
The Kindle and iBook version of Trust Me, PR Is Dead went on sale last week. All supporters of the project (thank you!) received a notification and should now be able to downoad their copy. Please let me know what you think when you get a chance to read it in full. I would love your feedback.
(If you encounter any technical difficulties, btw, please let publishers Unbound know).
The book…11th January 2015 "A riveting good read"
Earlier this week, we circulated preview copies of Trust Me, PR Is Dead. I am happy to report that initial feedback has been really positive. Let's hope it stays that way.
"Sizzling" commented one journalist. "Incendiary" observed an industry blogger. "Brilliant" and "surprisingly emotional" said two colleagues. More importantly, Trust Me, PR Is Dead is "a riveting good read" according to the global…1st December 2014 Guest blog: Die! PR! Die! Die! Die! by Dan Slee
The world is changing and PR with it. If you work in PR or communications there is a book and set of arguments you’ll be hearing more of in the New Year. It cuts to the heart of what public relations is and does.
by Dan Slee
Fueled by a bottle of red wine a frustrated journalist and blogger wrote a bold post in 2006 called ‘Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die!’ that took an axe to one of the standard…28th November 2014 Guest blog: Trust the People, by Neal Lawson
A hugely successful PR man of some 30 years standing organizes a launch for his book “Trust Me, PR Is dead”. It’s held in a swanky business school auditorium with wine, nibbles, name badges and a panel handpicked by the author to largely agree with him. PR is dead? You’re having a laugh, right?
We did have a laugh – there were some great lines – but Robert Phillips* is right. PR is dead. It…17th November 2014 Picture the book - Trust Me, PR Is Dead
Trust Me, PR Is Dead is peppered with interviews, case studies and anecdotes. Over one hundred characters feature - Virgin's Richard Branson and EDF's CEO Vincent de Rivaz; philosophers Baroness Onoora O'Neill and Michael Sandel; the genius of Margaret Heffernan and Tony Judt. Oh, and Elizabeth Windsor (The Queen) and Vladimir Putin (The President). Look out also for a camel, two men called Douglas…5th November 2014 Burn The System on Bonfire Night
My Jericho partners and I thought it would be fun to publish "Revolutionary Times", described by some as "an antiode to the McKinsey Quarterly". My piece focuses on why I believe that the failure to introduce wholesale constitutional reform - and not Iraq - was Tony Blair's greatest failure.
Given the theme of this issue, we thought it appropriate to release the first issue on November 5th. VAT…27th October 2014 Gender is a leadership issue
Another tale from the cutting room floor.
This piece was eventually excluded from the final manuscript because, as the editors noted, it is worthy of a book in its own right. I would agree.
* * *
Alaric Mostyn, founder of Stonecourt Consulting and now a colleague at Jericho Chambers, has been one of the more vocal and important crowd-contributors to this book.
“There is” he writes “a strong…18th October 2014 Redemption - a data allegory
The manuscript for Trust Me, PR Is Dead is now safely in the hands of the publishers, Unbound. We will of course let you know publication dates soon - please rest assured that the book's supporters will receive the first copies. My original manuscript ran to about 110,000 words (too long; I was excited) which the brilliant Phil Connor and Isobel Frankish have now reduced to a more compact, digestible…18th October 2014 If everything is dead, what comes next? (an invitation to join a live crowd conversation)
Much has been said and written about the death of old business models, the age of constant disruption and the much-vaunted (if somewhat clichéd) paradigm shift from the traditional to the creative economy.
Clichés, however, are sometimes clichés because they are true. The bigger question is that, if every model is dead or dying, what comes next?
On Thursday 27th November, Jericho Chambers…8th October 2014 The Road to Jericho: Atonement, One Year On
It is almost one year to the day that George Pitcher, Jules Peck, Christine Armtsrong and I launched Jericho Chambers, billed as a community of experts and "the antidote to McKinsey and WPP". We have since grown to a group of fourteen partners. We have spent the past twelve months asking and answering bigger questions for a range of FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies. Like us, they are determined…4th October 2014 The Road to Jericho: Atonement, One Year On
It is almost one year to the day that George Pitcher, Jules Peck, Christine Armstrong and I launched Jericho Chambers, billed as a community of experts and "the antidote to McKinsey and WPP". We have since grown to a group of fourteen partners. We have spent the past twelve months asking and answering bigger questions for a range of FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies. Like us, they are determined…27th August 2014 Sharpening Thoughts
Earlier this week, Communication Director magazine - a European title - published a feature on Trust Me, PR Is Dead. For those following the book's progress, you will be familiar with many of the core arguments - though my Jericho Chambers co-founder, George Pitcher, kindly suggested that he thinks this is the sharpest and most effective summary so far. George is a lovely bloke. You can make your…13th July 2014 Manuscript Submitted
This is just a short note to let you know that at 4.58pm today, I (finally) delivered the manuscript to Dan and Isobel at Unbound. Thank you, once again, to the whole community who have helped make this project happen - the 226+ supporters who contributed to the crowd-funding and to the many who have taken part via interviews and e-mails (t he footnotes alone run to twelve pages). As it…2nd July 2014 Thank You
Yesterday, we passed the 100% funding target for the book. We have built a community of over 200 supporters, many of whom have become active participants in the thinking and writing process. The book is much wiser and more authentic for it - proof positive of the collective power and legitimacy of crowds and, as publisher Dan Kieran has written in one of the Afterwords, further evidence that the…22nd June 2014 Kindred Spirits and the Harbingers of Death
If nothing else, the crowd-funding for Trust Me, PR Is Dead has ignited a series of web memes and some great conversations.
Tom Fletcher, HM Ambassador to Lebanon (who I have never met), started the trend with a post on the death of traditional diplomacy. “Substitute ‘traditional diplomacy’ for ‘PR’ and we can see a similar challenge”, he wrote.
“Diplomacy has detached itself from public debate…15th June 2014 Big Bang Theories and the Kabbalah of PR
I have been thinking about the Lurianic Kabbalah this week – the medieval, mystical Judaic texts that seek to explain the chaos of the world and to understand what it will take to return to order, human fulfilment and/ or Messianic arrival (the three may not be unrelated).
As I have written before, I am a Jewish atheist, so attracted by the Kabbalah theory of the sparks on grounds of poetry and…27th May 2014 The Long Weekend
I spent most of the UK Bank Holiday Weekend editing and tidying Part Three of the book: "What Is To Be Done?". It opens with a chapter entitled "The Road to Jericho" and considers what organisations need to do to to address issues of substance, not spin. (As a teaser, the first three are (i) Tell the truth; (ii) Break the business model; and (iii) Create a new corporate culture. I also clarify…21st May 2014 The Sunday Times ... Social Movements and Public Value
Last week, The Sunday Times asked me to author an article on the death of PR. I think they wanted to link it to the imprisonment of celebrity publicist Max Clifford - I pointed out that his downfall and my thoughts on the imminent demise of the industry follow two very distinct strands of argument. The piece is now scheduled to run at a later date. However, I thought I would share it here in my…18th May 2014 "PR ist tot" (apparently)
For those fluent in German....
For those lost in translation, here it is again (via "PRMagazin")...
Q: Please give us an abbreviated version: Why is PR dead?
The current model of “Public Relations” is no longer fit for purpose. It was born in a diminishing age of hierarchies and institutional authority and relies too heavily…27th April 2014 Almost There ...
I have spent the last week on "holiday", editing and fine-tuning part two of the book. This charts the rise of Public Leadership and the implications not just for Public Relations and communications but for the real worlds of business and politics, too. Public Leadership, I argue, needs to be be matched with a new sense of Public Value. There will be no return to "old" trust (the world is too chaotic…10th April 2014 The Great Schism
In an article in the Financial Times on Tuesday 8 April 2014, the journalist Emma Jacobs noted that some business leaders were turning away from PR because they failed to see where it demonstrated value. “I do not know what it does for us”, said one executive, “except add corporate-speak”.
The article is well worth a read, not least because it rightly challenges the orthodoxy that "only…30th March 2014 "With all the emotional objectivity of a parent whose child has been called ugly"
I have never met Joe Kelly, a point he also makes in the blog he posted today.
But, like Richard Fletcher, Martin Vogel and George Pitcher, Joe clearly gets why the argument is important and timely. He undersatnds that there are progressives among us - rightly taking issue with the many sleepwalkers out there.
I am not the Grim PReaper, nor is it my intention to be sensationalist. I firmly…25th March 2014 The Media Is Not The Message. The Media Isn't Even The Media Anymore
If you have been following the on-line discussions on the future of PR since last Friday - this - from my Jericho Chambers co-founder George Pitcher - is an absolute must-read:
http://www.jerichochambers.com/article-i-love-mike-love-dearly-but-hes-got-it-wrong/23rd March 2014 PR Is Dead - But The Body Is Still Twitching
It has been an interesting week. Colin Byrne, UK & EMEA CEO of Weber Shandwick, launched a rather ill-informed personal attack on me on Friday, deciding that he, rather than me, knew my motivation for writing a book entitled “Trust Me, PR Is Dead”.
Colin remains a good friend but, for the record, he was wrong.
Meanwhile, someone I had never met on the other side of the Atlantic elected…21st March 2014 But Is Diplomacy Dead, Too?
This blog from Tom Fletcher, HM Ambassador to Lebanon and (aka The Naked Diplomat), is absolutely worrth a read (and not just because of the echoing shades of Trust Me, PR Is Dead)
PS. My final chapter is called David, Standing Naked. Nudity seems to be in fashion.17th March 2014 If PR Week publishes it, it must be true....
http://www.prweek.com/article/1285244/pr-dead-public-leadership-future17th March 2014 From Narrative-Based Public Relations to Activist Public Leadership
Last Friday, PR Week Magazine published an OpEd from me on why I believe that PR is dead and why Public Leadership is the future. For reasons of space (I think/ hope) a few lines were omitted from the final version. So here is my original text, in full .... there has to be a better way.
PR Is Dead. Public Leadership Is The Future
There has long been a debate about whether Public…16th March 2014 Transformation Needs Participation
It is now nearly 18 months since I quit my job at Edelman, the world's largest Public Relations firm, as President & CEO of Europe, the Middle East & Africa and as Global Chair of its Public Engagement & Future Strategies group.
I spent most of 2013 thinking through "what next?" for the Public Relations industry - for both its philosophy and its business models. At the same time, with help from…16th March 2014 Transformation Needs Participation
It is now nearly 18 months since I quit my job at Edelman, the world's largest Public Relations firm, as President & CEO of Europe, the Middle East & Africa and as Global Chair of its Public Engagement & Future Strategies group.
I spent most of 2013 thinking through "what next?" for the Public Relations industry - for both its philosophy and its business models. At the same time, with help from…12th March 2014 The self-destruction of Euan Sutherland
One of the chapters in Trust Me, PR Is Dead explores the need for businesses to "mutualise the thinking, if not the business model". It would appear that Euan Sutherland was attempting to do just this at the Co-Op, somehow hoping to protect the mutual spirit of the organisation he led, while putting in place more "conventional" operating structures. It was an unhappy and, as it turned out, unworkable…
These people are helping to fund Trust Me, PR is Dead.