Firefly founder and CEO Claire Walker interviewed 25 people about the recent history of PR. Alongside research conducted by Firefly of 150 PR professionals, this video explores the qualitative and quantitative outcomes.

What activities and techniques are properly buried in the past and what approaches have evolved and are living on?

Niall O’Malley talks to Claire Walker about joining Firefly in 2002 and his time organising press events and liaising with venues via fax. Whereas he believes these events (and faxing) are very much things of the past, Niall addresses a growing disenchantment with new media and the possibility of a swing back to traditional media. With the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter going public, and having to find new revenue streams, Niall expects to see an increase in the amount of unsolicited content. With all this noise, he believes there will still be a need for clean, reliable, authoritative journalism.

It’s 1988: Margaret Thatcher is Prime Minister, Beetlejuice and Who Framed Roger Rabbit are box office hits and A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking is a best seller. PR secretaries have daisy wheel typewriters, PR execs only have roll-o-decks, a telephone and piles of paper on their desks. Only the MD has a brick-sized mobile phone.

A PR exec in 1988 if told to tweet might leap up and do the Birdie Song dance. He/she would have been deeply shocked to be told that in 25 years’ time they’d be multi-media geeks able to alter photography, edit videos, edit live documents on the internet, hold and attend web-based conferences from their desks, tweet, link, post and generally work at 30 times the pace.

Flash forward to 2013: Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus have become supreme overlords of the world through a combination of twerking and fanatical fans, video games have overtaken films as the leading multimedia properties and Stephen King has written a sequel to The Shining. Modern day PRs are now spoilt for choice when it comes to laptops and mobile phones, we’re all social media gurus, Google runs our life with SEO and alerts and we’ve probably never written a cheque (well, I haven’t).

It all begs the question, where will the PR industry go from here? Will we be able to transmit press releases from our brain to a journalist’s brain? Will we teleport to meet our clients or to meet each other? Will our clients all be cyborgs serving a central artificial intelligence? OK, probably not. We’ve already had Twitter, grumpy cats, Vine and Gangnam Style. Perhaps One Direction will branch into perfume…what do you mean they already have?!?



As a part of our 25th anniversary celebrations, please enjoy Firefly’s infographic on the differences in the mind-set of a PR exec in 1988 and 25 years later in 2013, as seen on PR Moment.

Thanks to, Annabel Abbs, Rhiannon Jones and Melissa Geddes for the 1988 memories.

Thanks to Tom Reynolds, Charlotte Stoel and Austin Brailey for the 2013 inspiration.

Watch and follow our #firefly25 video interview series and watch out for the survey results and our own Firefly white paper on the Past, the Present and the Future of PR.

Gareth casts his mind back to 1988 when, in his role as a journalist, everything was done over the phone or in person. Claire and Gareth discuss whether email will ever really substitute face to face contact and the importance of PR people remembering “we’re in a people business”.

Gareth also talks about the fundamental differences between weekday and Sunday papers, which few still truly understand.

Looking to the future, Gareth predicts greater transparency for listed companies as interactive reporting such as webcasting of shareholder meetings becomes a requirement.

Claire Walker talks to former Firefly, Ashley Scott, about the past, present and future of PR. Ashley reflects on the changing nature of media relations and the importance of building relationships with journalists, as opposed to the old method of mass press release distribution, which resulted in stacks of coverage (times have definitely changed).

Ashley also discusses the opportunities and challenges of today’s many customer touch points and working closely with Virgin Media’s social media team to make sure messages are consistent.

Claire Walker talks to former Firefly and current director of communications at Absolute Radio, Cat Macdonald.

Cat looks back at her time spent creating physical coverage books and using a ruler to measure the size of newspaper coverage when she first started in the industry. She explains how social media, as we know it today, will change rapidly over the coming years and why it will be a big challenge for the PR industry to keep up.


Sophie Mackenzie, UK PR, marketing and comms manager at ValueClick talks to Claire Walker about the past, present and future of PR. Sophie reflects on how companies used to constantly vie for coverage in national newspapers but how PR is now measured by different criteria, such as companies wishing to measure the amount of traffic driven to their website as a result of PR efforts.


Claire Walker speaks to current Firefly client, Gill Hawkins, director of marketing communications at Savvis about the past, present and future of PR. Gill talks about the demise of the press conference, the changing nature of the press release and how any agency that doesn’t have digital and social as part of their offering is “dead on the water”.

In the latest interview of our #firefly25 anniversary series, Claire speaks to former Firefly, Lee Stone. Lee worked at Firefly in the 90s and then spent many years in Australia’s PR industry, before returning home. Lee now works at EE with Mat Sears, another former Firefly. During those early days Lee did not enjoy his many hours standing by the photocopier and fax machine and thinks feature planning is passé as the current environment is so dynamic. Lee believes that although technology is central to our lives, relationships are key and need working on every day.


In the fourteenth interview of our #firefy25 anniversary series, Andy Rogers, director of communications at CEDR (the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution), and former Firefly, speaks to Claire Walker about the past, present and future of PR.  Andy discusses the need for collaboration with journalists in the modern era of PR, rather than the ‘Russian roulette’ approach of old, whether the office phone will survive and how having a groundswell of supporters will be an essential part of campaigns of the future.


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