Trust Me, PR is Dead

By Robert Phillips

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

Sunday, 16 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 a couple of the Professors at Cass Business School, i began to explore alternative theories of business leadership. This had the working title of "citizen-centric leadership" (picking up on some of the recurring themes in Citizen Renaissance) but I have since refined that to Public Leadership instead. Cass'  Deputy Dean, Cliff Oswick, and I have an article based on this thinking in the works for submission to HBR soon.

As Trust Me, PR Is Dead examines, Public Leadership is, I believe, the logical successor to Public Relations in a changed world. Its cornerstone principles are about leadership being activist, co-produced, citizen-centric and society-first. There is of course a brief synopsis on Unbound website ( and more on the thinking in my recent talk to the OECD in Paris (

Some in the PR industry seem dis-proportionately perturbed by the book's title. It is of course meant to provoke - but in a good way. One of the things that has been bugging me is the way  PR continues to be used, falsely, to allegedly gain or restore trust. I hope the book finally nails the trust myth. This, in turn, leads to an examination of leadership in business and politics and, again, to the corrosive role "old" PR can play here. In this sense, the book is about a whole lot more than just PR.

That said, I firmly believe Public Relations as it has been needs to be replaced by Public Leadership as it should be.

Jericho Chambers, my "other life", continues to build nicely, having launched last October (in case you need it, more here: In many ways, Jericho Chambers is the consultancy delivery of the thinking described above: a disruptive and radical model; a belief that communications can and should be transformative; and that, ultimately, a vision that there has to be a better way - for society, for business and for PR and comms.

I would love to know your views. This debate needs to be aired and open - and involve the many, not the few. Please jump in.

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