In December of 2012, Robert Phillips quit his high-profile, high-paying job as President and CEO of Edelman, EMEA – the world’s largest Public Relations firm, responsible for over 1,200 people and 19 offices across fourteen markets. (To understand the sheer size or Edelman, consider that in 2013, globally, client fees exceeded $734 million.) The decision to leave came less than a month after also being appointed Global Chair, Public Engagement & Future Strategies for Edelman.
There were no unspoken conspiracies or massive disagreements behind the move. Under Phillips’ leadership, Edelman grew 55% in the UK in three years. The reason was simple: he no longer believed in either the business model or the purpose of the business he had chosen to profess. He felt like an imposter and a hypocrite and knew it was time to quit.
Phillips is a co-founder of Jericho Chambers, a Progressive Communication Consultancy, a Visiting Professor at Cass Business School, London, co-author of Citizen Renaissance (2008) and a frequent essayist, speaker and media commentator on citizenship and business. He has appeared on BBC TV and the BBC World Service – and contributed to The Sunday Times, The Guardian, the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, among others.
He was educated at Balliol College, Oxford and the University of London. He is a Trustee of The Creative Society; a Fellow of the RSA; an Associate at the Centre for London; and a Fellow of the Public Relations Consultants Association and Vice Chair of its Diversity Network. Past memberships have included the Advisory Board of the Global Economic Symposium (the Kiel Institute for World Economy) and the Steering Committee of the Circle of European Communicators plus spells as a Trustee of the New Economics Foundation and on the London Council of the Confederation of British Industry and its Climate Change Taskforce. Phillips sat on the Edelman Global Executive Committee and created (and chaired) the firm’s Global Ethics Committee as well.
I contacted Phillips after he shared a recent post of mine concerning the current state of Public Relations on Twitter. We soon discovered that it’s a topic we have a shared passion for, and I knew that Editorial IV readers, myself included, could learn a lot from his perspective. Having come to this realization, I asked if he’d be willing to do a Q&A with us. He graciously accepted. (more…)