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The Art of Perception - our chat with a PR legend

Blog post   •   Jun 05, 2013 11:29 BST

Bob Leaf started out as the first ever PR trainee at Burson-Marsteller in 1957 and went on to become their International Chairman, bringing PR to Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Australia. He was involved in the first ever PR operation in Russia during the Cold War and won the Honor Medal for Distinguished Service to Journalism from the world’s first journalism school, the University of Missouri.  

The Art of Perception is his collection of invaluable lessons and stories from his 55 years in the PR industry - essential reading for all PR practitioners today. He reflects on how the industry has evolved and will continue to do so as it adapts to the volatile world of digital communications.  

Watch highlights from our interview with Bob...

Lessons we learned from Bob:

We all must be masters of the art of perception

It goes without saying that the key responsibility of PR practitioners is to safeguard and foster the reputations of their clients. This has always been the case, since a good reputation is essential to the success of every individual and organisation. The general public demands more transparency and a real-time relationship with brands and organisations.

The power shift 

In-house PR practitioners are playing an ever more important role in organisations as CEOs are more aware of how valuable a good reputation is. When Bob Leaf began his career PR was essentially a bolt-on feature within an organisation, now it's an integral part. PR pros have greater opportunities to influence both strategy and decision making at the highest level.

Evidence based PR

Bob emphasises that PR practitioners must pitch campaigns to their clients based on solid research and analysis. One of the problems practitioners have faced throughout the evolution of PR is how to prove the effectiveness of their campaigns and messages, and show ROI. Bob stresses that we must learn to use the vast volumes of data now available due to digital communications that weren't available to him when he began his career.    

Embrace technology to retain power

When Bob began his career in the late 50s, the written word was much more powerful than it is today. Nowadays written communications must be combined with images and multimedia content in order to add potency to key messages throughout the storytelling process. Furthermore, they must do this across many different channels consistently.  

PR practitioners must adapt to changes in media consumption habits as well as respond to public demand for organisations to be more accountable, transparent and responsive. 

"Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  

The Art of Perception is a must read for all who are currently working in the communications industry or those who aspire to become the next generation of PR practitioners. The lessons Bob Leaf offers in his book show us how PR has evolved and provides insights into how practitioners may adapt to the rapidly developing changes and trends in the digital age.