Arun Sudhaman 13 Dec 2017 // 10:00AM GMT
We kick off our 2017 Review by breaking down our most-read Longreads of the year. As ever, we disqualify awards stories as they always skew the rankings. Beyond that, it is worth noting that our Longreads always get the most traction, even ahead of most of our top news articles, which we will rank later this week. And please do bear in mind that, of course, some of these articles are now gated behind our Premium Content section.
For now, enjoy our most popular analysis and features from a particularly tumultuous year:
1. Aspen: Caring And Courage Are The Keys To Leadership
At a time when companies are being challenged to adapt their business models, Paul Holmes' coverage from the Aspen Ideas Festival shone a spotlight on why a more human approach to organizational leadership is required. In particular, the lessons from Bob Chapman and Barry-Wehmiller are required reading for anyone handling today's complex change management challenges.
2. Cannes: Ranking The 2017 PR Gold Lion Winners
While Cannes proved to be a less controversial affair for the PR industry this year, there was still plenty to discuss. And this longread, which submitted an alternative ranking of the 2017 PR Gold Lion winners proved particularly popular because...everyone loves a list right?
3. Have We Reached The End Of Brand Purpose? ($)
The rise of brand purpose as a marketing tactic has been hard to miss, not least at award shows. And Alex Brownsell's elegant investigation asked CMOs some hard questions about whether brands are really serious about improving the world, or simply developing ill-conceived CSR campaigns in a bid to bring home trophies. The jury, it's safe to say, is still out on this one.
4. Why Do PR Firms Pay Women, People of Color Less?
As headlines go, few are more devastatingly simple than this one, which set the scene for an extensive exploration of the shameful gender and diversity pay gap that continues to plague the PR industry. Using research from Ketchum, Aarti Shah revealed that white women make $6,000+ less than white men — and this gap grows larger for people of color. The conclusions are obviously unacceptable for an industry that is supposed to be in touch with the modern world, but their is also plenty of guidance for progressive PR firms grappling with how to improve situation.
5. Davos 2017: 6 Themes For Communicators From An Unruly World
Our annual Davos round-up is always a popular affair, not least because it helps to set the agenda for the year ahead. But this year's version was more anticipated than most, thanks to the utter incredulity that has greeted seismic political upheaval, casting a bewildering pall over the World Economic Forum. Accordingly, this edition of Davos commentary should come, as ever, with a rather large caveat. Consensus views from the global economic elite that gather at the World Economic Forum are always wrong, according to Harvard professor and former IMF chief economist Kenneth Rogoff, a result of the stunning homogeneity and group-think that often typifies the event.
6. Cannes: 5 Lessons From The 2017 PR Lions ($)
Our annual 'post-match' analysis from Cannes focused again on the continuing struggle of PR for recognition at the world’s most important festival of creativity. "Winning at Cannes starts with losing at Cannes," says Tom Beckman, executive creative director at Sweden's Prime, and chair of the global creative collective at Prime's parent company Weber Shandwick. "If that's true, perhaps the PR industry's continuing losing streak at Cannes is reason for optimism," archly observed Paul Holmes.
7. John Seifert’s Big Bet On The Future Of Marketing Communications ($)
One of the bigger agency stories of the year involved the efforts of some agencies to 're-integrate' their fragmented operations. And no one typified this trend better than Ogilvy CEO, who marked his elevation to the agency's top job with an ambitious plan to restructure its myriad units into one brand. Of course, that approach poses many challenges for specialist disciplines such as PR, as this analysis explored.
8. 'Public Relations': Now More Than Ever ($)
The latest Global Communications Report — the result of collaboration between USC Annenberg School’s Center for Public Relations, The Holmes Report, and a host of international PR organizations—once again found widespread dissatisfaction among PR practitioners about the term that defines their profession: only 14% of agency professionals and 13% of in-house professionals agreed that “in five years, the term public relations will adequately describe” the work they will be doing. Not for the first time, Paul Holmes defends the term "public relations", arguing that the problem lies not with those words, but with the ways they have been co-opted.
9. Fake News Is An Existential Threat To PR’s Future (Part 1 Of 2) ($)
Unsurprisingly, it was difficult to ignore the rise of fake news, particularly as it challenges the ability of public relations people to deliver the credibility that should be their most valuable resource. In this two-part series, Paul Holmes breaks down what fake news means to the PR profession, and offers several lessons to combat it pernicious effects.
10. Aedhmar Hynes Profile: Not Invented Here
This year's big profile featured one of the industry's more enigmatic personalities in Text100 CEO Aedhmar Hynes. At a time of considerable change in both the industry and her own agency, the article found Hynes in contemplative mood as she described the "new energy" that is underpinning her efforts to create a modern PR firm.