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PR and sustainability briefing Part 1: The reputation economy

The public relations industry is facing the challenges of sustainability and transparency, and some agencies are working to help their clients become genuinely sustainable

Public relations used to be a simple business. The PR agency would take a brief about a client’s latest ground-breaking product or service, spin it as creatively as possible, and pitch it, normally via a badly written press release, to a well-defined range of media outlets. The holy grail was favourable coverage in a mass market mouthpiece, which in the UK would be a tabloid newspaper such as the Mirror or the Sun.

It was a tried-and-tested formula that worked for everyone. Harassed journalists received a never-ending tide of information that could quickly and easily be turned into stories. The more skilful PR spinners generated coverage for their clients that far outweighed the impact and value of standard advertising.

The PR industry, especially in its symbiotic relationship with popular newspapers, earned a power beyond its relatively small size. In his industry exposé The Invisible Persuaders, former PR man David Michie noted...

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