Lots of people in the PR profession are gnashing their teeth again about how it all needs to change. “The old PR agency is no longer fit for purpose.” The press release is dead”. “ We need to abandon PR as a name for what we do.”

You can buy expensive textbooks that tell you all this.

Or you can ignore them.

The visual arts had another renaissance in the mid-late 19th century. Impressionism was born because of the arrival of a small but significant technical innovation.

Traditionally, artists mixed their own paints from raw pigments that they often ground themselves. This made portability difficult and kept most painting activities confined to the studio.

This changed when John Goffe Rand invented the squeezable metal tube in 1841.







Claude Monet was born that year.

Suddenly artists could go outside and mix colours quickly and easily, enabling plein air(outdoor) painting.

Visually, this led to many triumphs. The freshness of the paintings was a revelation.

Here’s Monet’s palette:









I guess you could call it the YouTube of the 19th century. See what I did there?

Underneath, however, two important elements remained static: The primacy of the idea and the primacy of talent.

New technical developments, in the right hands, can lead to creation of new masterpieces, but they don’t create masterpieces in their own right.

In PR, buying a drone with a GoPro camera or having someone who understands how Twitter, Pinterest or Facebook work won’t on their own deliver you greater success.

The very best work that I have seen in the last several years is all reliant on an achingly simple idea – a phrase or a concept that has been twisted to catch the light. It might have been enhanced by a new medium or channel, but it has been made by one. The medium carries the message. The medium is not the message.

All this talk about PR having to change is a figleaf, in my view, for a dearth of imagination.

By all means run off and do something else if you’ve run out of ideas, but don’t pretend that a new bag of tricks will necessarily deliver a better result than that really simple, brilliant idea that is – and always has been – the essence of great PR.


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