Devil’s Advocate: Introducing a new no-holds-barred column by Jaideep Shergill

30 May,2016

By Jaideep Shergill


This is what Umberto Eco (who sadly passed away recently) had to say about lists:

The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order — not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries. There is an allure to enumerating how many women Don Giovanni slept with: It was 2,063, at least according to Mozart’s librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte. We also have completely practical lists — the shopping list, the will, the menu — that are also cultural achievements in their own right.


AdWeek recently released the ubiquitous Power List 2016: The Top 100 Leaders in Marketing, Media and Tech. What a great list. Such depth and insightful commentary and more importantly covering a broad spectrum of leaders, ranging from tech CEOs to media moguls to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to Marketing Directors and head honchos of large marketing services (ouch, was I supposed to say advertising) holding companies. Sadly, like we do every year when such lists get released, we scour every listing only to see the disappointment grow manifold by the time we reach #100 and as always the predestined result follows our disappointment. We never (rarely ever) have any leaders directly representing the PR/communication fraternity.


I did notice one “outlier”, Harris Diamond, CEO, chairman, McCannWorld group who comes in at #76 on the list. Having said this, the last time Mr Diamond was in a role in the PR industry was back in 2012. So that’s that as far as the PR and communication industry goes. Nada, zilch, Zero!


Of course the holding company chiefs on the list can also claim to have something to do with the PR business but we all know how little they care or mean to do for the PR fraternity barring the lip service of course.


A completely different list, the GQ magazine 100 most connected men in Britain 2016 has a great list with very different criterion for one to appear on it, however, this list at least has a handful of leaders from the PR industry on it including Matthew Freud, Chairman, Freud Communications, Paddy Harverson and DJ Collins, Co-founders, Milltown Partners, Simon Kelner, Chief executive, Seven Dials PR, Benjamin Webb, Founder, Deliberate PR and James Chapman, Director of communications for George Osborne. More importantly I didn’t see many of those “lip-service” folks listed!


Looking at the latter, there is hope yet!


Now coming to some of our very own homegrown lists which I have been reading with a great amount of amazement and consternation.  Invariably, we end up with list which are too skewed towards the following types:

1. Advertising CEOs

2. Men

3. Old men


While this applies to some of the large marketing media and so-called industry leading titles who create these lists, the PR-specific lists are equally lopsided and represent “the old school” definition of Public Relations and Communication. Unusually, only those from the “establishment” make it to these lists.


I personally believe that these lists need to be expounded a lot more and comprise a much wider constitution and deeper thinking needs to go into curating them rather than providing the standard, dull fare to readers. Let’s give our brothers and sisters more credit for their intellect.


Within the world of lists, the PR industry and our representation on these lists is like the innermost and smallest doll of the Matryoshka doll (Russian doll)


Sorry, Mr. Eco, we have a long way to go yet!


Jaideep Shergill, Co-Founder, Pitchfork Partners Strategic Consulting LLP is a PR and communicationas veteran and has always been contrarian about most things, drawing extraordinary amounts of irk and ire from industry peers. He can be reached at


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