PRoust Questionnaire: Richard Bailey

Richard Bailey MCIPR experienced public relations educator (university and professional qualifications) and a former business journalist and PR manager/consultant.

The PRoust Questionnaire provides a quick insight into a public relations practitioner’s interests and point of view, as well as their 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.

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

I tell the truth.

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

I tell the truth.

3. What is your favourite occupation in PR?

I was proud of my record of hiring and developing great talent, and I think this explains why I now teach.

4. Why do you work in PR?

Before my first job in PR I’d taught, I’d published and I’d written for a living. Public relations combined all these areas – in a growing industry.

5. What is your idea of PR nirvana?

Predicting the future. How many will be attending the media briefing? I have a knack of getting it right. Will this make tomorrow’s news? I have a fair sense.

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

PR hell is other people. Waiting at the airport; the plane is about to board, and two of my party have not shown up. The plane’s taxiing down the runway, and my mobile is ringing in the bag above my head.

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

Intelligence and toughness.

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

Passing the buck.

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

My PR hero is my first employer, John Aeberhard – who exemplifies toughness and intelligence.
(He listened as I was once given a tough talking to by a chief executive over a corporate publication I was editing. As we left, he kept silent; no names, no blame. He then worked through the night to turn it around.)

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

We have things to teach each other.

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

My teaching has certainly been informed by them. For different reasons, Borkowski’s ‘Bring Back Wispa’ campaign and ‘The Best Job in the World’ by Cummins Nitro have appeared in several of my lectures.

12.  Where would you most like to practise PR?

I feel I was in the best place at the best time: working with global technology clients in the early days of the PC and the web. These fast-growing companies put public relations first and listened to advice.

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

No, but I find Wag the Dog brilliant, dark, and chilling. Which aspects of this fictional account of presidential spin did not come true within a few years of the film’s release in 1997?

14.  Who do you think has great public relations?

Google – because we do it for them, for free. Everyone’s heard of Google, almost every computer user turns to Google on a daily basis. Yet no one can remember when, why or from whom they first learnt of the company. And none of this was achieved through mass marketing techniques like advertising.

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

Machiavelli is misunderstood.

16.  Who is your favourite writer?

Among writers about public relations: Michael Bland for style, Kevin Moloney for substance.

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


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?

I’m a longstanding member of the CIPR, but I’m not at all clubbable. Though PR advisers need to be well connected, the PR perspective is helped by some detachment and independence of thought.

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

I often wonder what we did before Twitter. Yet face-to-face is still best and I enjoy occasional academic gatherings like the International History of Public Relations Conference.

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

I left my first PR consultancy job to go freelance. This gave me the freedom to take some interim in-house roles and broaden my experience. These experiences helped when I later on became a PR trainer and lecturer.

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

These don’t change. The PR skill is to understand the problem (no problem, no need for PR) and to prescribe how to solve it. PR leaders in addition have to surround themselves with good people.

21.  Which talent would you most like to have?

I’ve overdeveloped my literacy at the expense of my numeracy skills.

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

I’d like to be remembered for my teaching and would like to leave something worth reading.

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

It’s exciting. Public relations is universally needed but widely misunderstood and derided. It’s needed more than ever because of the disruptive power of digital communications, yet is also under threat because of the convergence of communications disciplines.

23.  What is your PR motto?

Semper veritas.


Richard Bailey MCIPR is an experienced public relations educator (university and professional qualifications) and a former business journalist and PR manager/consultant.   He is senior lecturer in public relations at Leeds Metropolitan University, external examiner at London Metropolitan university, and instructor on Johns Hopkins University postgraduate summer course.  He is editor of Behind the Spin (an online magazine for PR students and young  practitioners) and a published author.  His presentations at academic conferences include a paper at the 2011 International History of PR Conference (with Lucy Laville):  Public relations education in Britain: a case history.  Richard can be found on LinkedIn, Twitter and his PRStudies blog.


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:

Jane Jordan-Meier

– Nelly Benova

Peter V Stanton

Mat Wilcox

Anne Gregory

Markus Pirchner

Heather Yaxley

Judy Gombita


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