PRoust Questionnaire: Al Clarke

The PRoust Questionnaire provides a quick insight into a public relations practitioner’s interests and point of view, as well as his or her professional beliefs and values.

If you are not familiar with the original 19th-century Proust Questionnaire, please see details at the end of this post.

PRoust Questionnaire answers from Al Clarke:

1. What is your most striking characteristic as a PR practitioner?

Always open to new ideas and committed to help make things work.

2. What is your principal fault as a PR practitioner?

Impatience with people who haven’t understood we have been given two ears and one mouth for a reason…

3. What is your favourite occupation in PR?

Unlocking the door between the client’s objectives and their customers’ needs. Sounds trite, but this is the most exciting bit – combining experience with skill, strategy with tactics and helping people see the way forward.

4. Why do you work in PR?

I really like people…

5. What is your idea of PR nirvana?

Give me the toughest PR challenge and let me have a crack at it with people who are ready to give it a go..

6. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery in PR?

Wasting time with people who don’t listen!

7. What qualities do you most admire in a PR practitioner?

People who actually deliver. If you claim to be able to do it, then do it. Simple, eh?

8. What qualities do you most dislike in a PR practitioner?

Shallow insincerity.

9. Who would you describe as a PR hero or villain?

PR hero is Paul Charles, former colleague in the BBC, then Virgin Atlantic Communications Director, then MD of Lewis PR and now runs his own PR agency. Really understands the media, the message and has the clout to make it all come together. Look and learn…

10. What do you most value in your professional contacts?

Engagement. Dreadful word and over used, but in this context it means – keeping in touch. If you have contacts, then keep in contact! Ask me if I can help – I can always say ‘no’, but you’ll be amazed how often I say ‘yes’!

11. Have you ever been influenced by a PR campaign?

FairFuel UK – campaign to reduce fuel duty in the UK. Saw the campaign, read the information, signed the petition, became advocate. Simple ad clear messages – great PR.

12. Where would you most like to practise PR?

I practice every day! One day I’ll get it right I hope…

13. Has a novel, film, play or other work of fiction ever influenced you as a PR practitioner?

Probably, but can’t think immediately. In the meantime you should watch Ronin again – the world’s best car chases.. see the petrol is still flowing in my veins!

14. Who do you think has great public relations?

Apple. Dyson. Ferrari. Virgin. All started by powerful, dominant leaders who recognised the power of third-party endorsement and worked it to their advantage.

15. Which real, historical or fictional person or brand would you like to give a reputation makeover?

I don’t believe in makeovers, so not interested in re-writing history. I work with people who are confident enough to understand the reality of their current situation and are ready to make the journey to where they want to be.

16. Who is your favourite writer?

Professor Google. You can’t beat a good search and learn from crowd sourcing!

One great communicator in the motoring world is John Simister – one of the UK’s best writers who can explain complex technical information in simple, fun ways.

17. What one thing is essential to your PR life?

Trusted friends. Very few of them…

18. Groucho Marx is quoted as saying he’d never join a club that would have him as a member. Which PR club, association or tribes do you belong to—and why?

Motor Industry Public Affairs Association ( the world’s largest network of professional motor industry communicators. The PRCA ( The Institute of Directors ( The Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing (

Why so many? I join groups that I can learn from and contribute to – that’s what a community is all about. I am active in all of these groups, and if I cease to be I will leave.

19. Where do you most like to do your professional networking?

Martini style (if you’re under 35 search ‘Anytime, anyplace, anywhere’) – I love meeting people and finding out about them.

20. What’s the best career decision you ever made?

To quit a career in electronic engineering and make tea in a radio station. Brave / mad – depends on your perspective. I re-paid my student fees and started from the bottom again. It worked for me.

21. What skills and abilities do you think tomorrow’s PR leaders need?

Understand and develop three core skills.

Journalism – how to communicate in writing, audio and video.

Networking – how to meet other people and manage relationships in an open, professional manner – this is your reputation

Digital media – really understand how communication works across channels and platforms, not just superficial use of media tools

22. Which talent would you most like to have?

To drive like Raffaele di Simone, Ferrari’s talented test driver – calm, fast, skillful, and a gentleman

23. How would you like to end your PR career?

Spending more time transferring knowledge to others – what a waste of a life if you just stop one day and don’t pass on what you have learned?

24. How would you describe the current state of public relations?

We’re in a transitional phase. The days of the ‘dark arts’ when only people in PR understood what they did are (mercifully) nearly over. Social media are now revealing the power and value of clear, focused communication through third parties – i.e. PR.

25. What is your PR motto?

Let’s make it work


Al Clarke has more than 20 years experience working with blue chip organisations at the most senior level, and has a proven track record of delivering results through a positive, transparent, objective-driven approach. He is a respected, strategic marketing, PR and communications consultant based in Surrey, UK and elected Chairman of the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association Limited (MIPAA).  Previously, he was Commercial & Brand Director at Ferrari GB, Head of Communications at SMMT Ltd and a BBC radio presenter.  You can connect with Al, via LinkedIn, Google+ or Twitter (@AlClarkeLtd) – or his blog Let’s Make It Work


The PRoust Questionnaire was originally designed to reveal one’s personality. Its name and popularity as a form of interview has roots in the responses given by the French writer, Marcel Proust. His first set of responses came at the end of the nineteenth century, when he was still in his teens (from an English-language “confession album”).

For PR Conversations we have adapted this original idea with questions that offer a public relations’ perspective. It is fun to compare and contrast responses as the series grows. (See below.)

If you would like to be invited to complete our PRoust Questionnaire for posting on PR Conversations, please visit our Crowdsourcing suggestion form.

Earlier PRoust Questionnaire respondents:

– Léa Werthman

– Estelle de Beer

– Don Radoli

– Toni Muzi Falconi

– Richard Bailey

– Jane Jordan-Meier

– Nelly Benova

– Peter Stanton

– Mat Wilcox

– Anne Gregory

– Markus Pirchner

Heather Yaxley

– Judy Gombita

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7 Replies to “PRoust Questionnaire: Al Clarke

  1. 13. ” …see the petrol is still flowing in my veins! Watch out it doesn’t ignite 🙂

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