PR's Greatest Hits – 1986-2011

By Howard Bowden, Head of News, Clarion Communications

Later this year, Clarion celebrates its 25th  anniversary – so to commemorate our birthday, here are 25 things from the past quarter of a century which have helped shape PR as we know and love it…

1. Bizarre in The Sun  

The Beatles’ break-up didn’t make a single National splash – and it was only when The Sun introduced the first daily newspaper pop page in the mid-80s that the media’s modern day love affair with Celeb Culture began.

2. Fax machines  

Nowadays confined to ‘where are they now?’ features, the fax was once the critical link between PR and client.  Do I dial 9 for an outside line?

3. Meeja Agency Speak

Let’s touch base about downsizing – 360 degree thinking is fine as long as it’s outside the box…

4. Colour Photography  

Before Today newspaper arrived in the late 80s, everything in the Nationals was black-and-white, including the pictures. Photo calls would never be the same again.

5. Ab Fab

If you didn’t work in PR in the early 90s, Jennifer Saunders’ TV sitcom was probably your conception of the industry. Of course, in real life there were no such characters in PR…

6. Not having to send out press releases in the post  

Admin assistants may think they’ve got it bad, but once upon a time they’d have had to stick 500 releases in envelopes to go out tonight.  Then they invented email.

7. TV Retro List Shows  

Ever since C4 started its ‘The 100 Greatest…’ series, everyone in consumer PR requires a working knowledge of retro pop culture spanning five decades.  Hey, anyone remember Spangles?

8. Starbucks  

Where did PRs go for external team meets before modern day coffee shops?  I’m just nipping out for an office round of Frappuccinos, so let me know when I’m back.

9. London Freesheets  

We all remember London Lite and thelondonpaper, and some recall the Evening News – and while they never seem to stay around long, what better way for a PR to see if a story for tomorrow’s Nationals has made early?

10. 24/7 Rolling News Channels  

The digital revolution has resulted in acres more space for grateful PRs to fill, and no better example than TV News.  Yes, we can get a spokesperson in 20 minutes, but how many brand mentions can we get?

11. Latest Tech Trends  

Remember when Friends Reunited was the coolest thing online?  Or eBay?  One day, tech PRs will write releases about how their client is set to mirror the success of early 21 st Century Facebook.

12. Not wearing a suit and tie

Younger readers may be curious to learn there was a time when even the coolest consumer PR blokes wore suits and ties to work. Even in Hoxton.

13. Surveys  

We’ve all done them – and let’s be honest, with a bit of imagination, they continue to be the basis for securing fantastic, branded coverage.

14. Max Clifford  

Britain’s premier PR guru?  Certainly considered the public face of PR whenever TV news wants a commentator.  Or the Sundays want an exclusive.

15. Celebrity Chefs  

TV food show popularity + Food and Drink clien s wanting exposure = Celeb Chefs.  James Martin, Marco Pierre White, Jean-Christophe Novelli, Phil Vickery and Brian Turner have all worked on PR campaigns in recent months, and that’s just for Clarion clients.

16. Experts  

Where would we be without the army of specialists, future gazers and boffins who gladly provide any PR campaign with much needed third party endorsement? Three words to resonate with every PR: Doctor. David. Lewis.

17. New Labour  

Between careers as a top journalist and Britain’s foremost Burnley fan, Alistair Campbell made the term ‘spin doctor’ nationally famous. He also helped win two Elections.

18. Jordan  

Jade, Kerry and Cheryl run her close, but Katie Price is probably the foremost example of the media’s celebrity obsession.  We’ve always been obsessed, of course – it’s just the media got bigger.

19. Wikipedia          

Can anyone remember how we did research before the internet?  Not me, but I’m sure Wikipedia will have the answer.

20. Reality TV

From Big Brother in 2000 to TOWIE and Geordie Shore, the concept of watching ‘normal’ people do daft things on TV – with resulting impact on the rest of the media – is bigger than ever.  Big Brother 12 starts on C5 in August.

21. Databases  

For helping us find the Woman’s editor on the Aberdeen Press and Journal, among others, Gorkana we salute you.

22. The Royal Family  

Hard to believe, but Sarah Ferguson was THE 1986 media darling – 25 years later, any release mentioning Kate, or more likely Pippa, stands a fair chance of getting in.

23. Doing It Digitally  

From old school virals to multi-platform launches, every PR campaign needs a digital strategy these days. If there’s not a camcorder link below watching me write this, there should be.

24. Pop Idol/The X Factor/BGT  

There’s always been talent shows and manufactured pop – but as the shows got bigger, so did Simon Cowell’s grip on TV schedules, the nation’s hearts and the media agenda.

25. Twitter  

Nowadays we’re all so used to writing in no more than 140 characters that we even stick to the format when writing jokey PR features. #true