Colin Byrne, ceo, UK and EMEA at Weber ShandwickSeptember 12, 2017 Colin Byrne
Today we're interviewing Colin Byrne, CEO of Weber Shandwick UK and EMEA – in the latest of our series of interviews with some of the most high-profile leaders in UK public relations. By day Colin is CEO of the UK's most award-winning PR firm, with 35 years’ communications experience, by night he's a writer, aspiring novelist and musician. His PR experience spans domestic and international public relations. He joined Weber Shandwick in 1995, rising to lead the public affairs practice in London in 1997. He is now CEO of the firm’s UK and EMEA network and a senior member of the global management team. He’s recently announced he’ll be stepping down after more than 20 years at the helm. After several years in private and not-for-profit sector PR, Colin joined the British Labour Party’s communications team in 1987 and was quickly promoted to head of press and broadcasting. He was press aide to Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Jack Straw. He is a visiting fellow at The Reuters School of Journalism at Oxford University and a trustee of ActionAid UK and The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. Colin and I discuss: How he began his career in public relations, finding himself as a press officer at the Automobile Association having previously been unaware that PR existed! How he was very interested in politics from a very early age. Why a letter to Peter Mandelson (then comms director at the Labour Party) in response to an interview Mandelson had done with the Guardian transformed Colin’s career. Why having a mentor was critical to his success. Why Colin never wanted to work for a PR agency. How he enjoyed his time “as a reasonably prominent moth around the Blair flame”.. The challenges of being an agency CEO. The importance of PR people embracing new technologies. Why he’s planning on going “from a well-remunerated senior PR professional to being a penniless aspirant writer”. Why most of the change in public relations over the past 50 years has happened in the last 10 years. How social media and Cannes Lions opening up to PR firms has driven this change. Why we need more kids in PR who are like Jamal Edwards. Why we are living in era of excellent public relations work. Why PR must own the idea. How public relations must recruit from other creative professions, rather than merely recycling “our own”. Colin’s advice for people entering public relations as a career today. Why public relations is now a profession, not just a job, and therefore it needs to act like a profession.