Interview with Paul Holmes, CEO and Founder, The Holmes Report

Paul HolmesPaul Holmes, founder and CEO of The Holmes Report, visited Ketchum’s London office last week as part of his data gathering exercise for the Holmes Report’s Annual Agency Report Card.

Paul has spent 25 years reporting on the public relations industry in Europe, North America and Asia. He has a deep understanding of both professional practice and the operational function of agencies and brands. Paul’s access to the boardrooms of the biggest agencies and brands around the world makes his perspective on PR always worth listening to.

I grabbed the opportunity to spend 10 minutes to talk to him about the future of the profession. We spoke about the recovery in public relations, the competitive threat from adjacent markets, what public relations should be doing to improve its value and the role of professional and trade associations. You can listen to the conversation here:

Below are a few notable insights from Paul:


“The market is buoyant, but independent firms are moving faster (10 per cent) than publicly traded firms (single digits). It’s a question of scale and the pace of modernisation.”

Threat from other agencies

“My view is that digital agencies are a transformational life form. The challenge for PR is how to integrate digital. The challenge for digital is how to integrate everything else, and that’s a much bigger issue.”

The pace of change has never been faster

“The pace of change has never been faster and it’s a huge challenge for everybody. We require new talent and new ways of thinking. We’re trying to broaden the range of services and are moving into paid, share and owned media.”

But don’t scare your clients

“There’s always the worry that PR moves fast and agencies are selling their clients a raft of value added services, when in reality, clients are in the mindset that what they need from a PR agency is publicity. But in general, we need to move faster.”

Improving our value as a profession

“My answer [to how we move up the value chain] has been consistent for the last 25-years. We need to continue to make the business case for the value of relationships, and our ability to nurture and strengthen these relationships. Ultimately, it comes down to measurement.”

Personal sources of influence

Paul asserts that much of the most interesting work is taking place outside the public relations industry. He cites Malcolm Gladwell (behavioural economics), David Eagleman (neuroscience), Daniel Pink (organisational management) and Fred Reichheld, Net Promoter Score.