Turning to the dark side

15.02.11

Journalists are being tempted by the growing power of the public relations industry

George Thwaites, editor for the last five years of the Mail on Sunday's review section, is leaving the paper this month to set up his own PR company. He follows in a lengthy line of senior newspaper executives who have moved on to public relations, such as Phil Hall, David Yelland, Ian Monk and Stuart Higgins (we should probably include BBC News Executive Craig Oliver who has just become David Cameron's chief spin doctor). Thwaites, 37, has been with the Mail on Sunday for 11 years and believes it's the right time to branch out into a new venture. He will handling clients in the spheres of business and entertainment, and has already signed up some clients for his company, called Clearwood Communications.

Journalists who are converting to the dark side maybe onto something. Matthew Freud recently pointed out in the Economist that the future of PR is bright because of the growing importance of "reputation management". As companies are increasingly judged and held to account online, chief executives are turning to PR men to burnish their images. "Companies are paring back on advertising and switching to PR, which grasped the opportunity of social media for reputation management," says John Quelch of Harvard Business School. Mr Freud maintains that small, nimble firms are as able to capitalise on this as the giant networks. He seems unlikely to be distracted any time soon by overtures from the two big advertising holdings that have not yet owned his company.

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