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New book tells life of man who ‘invented PR’

A book telling the story of a former regional newspaper editor who is credited with being the UK’s first professional public relations officer is due to be published this month.

Sir Basil Clarke was editor of the now-defunct Sheffield Independent from 1919 to 1920 after making his name in the First World War on the Daily Mail by defying a ban on reporters on the front line and living in Dunkirk as a fugitive.

His life has been told in a book by former regional press reporter Richard Evans called From the Frontline: The Extraordinary Life of Sir Basil Clarke, which will be released on 14 June.

Richard worked at the Watford Observer, South London Press and Hull Daily Mail before making the switch to PR in 2004 and now heads the press office for Diabetes UK.

Said Richard: “I always thought that the history of PR isn’t well defined and as someone who works in the industry, it amazes me how little knowledge there is about the people who started it.

“That was what gave me the idea then when I read about Basil Clarke’s life it sounded extremely intriguing so I started looking into it. It sounded an extraordinary tale to tell and the book emerged from there.

“At the Sheffield Independent, he really made his mark because he brought the editorial style of the Daily Mail to the paper and really shook things up.”

His book tells the details of Sir Basil’s career including his time at the Daily Mail where he made his name by defying the ban on reporters on the front line, before going freelance after a row with his news editor.

Sir Basil then jointly reported on the Battle of the Somme for Press Association and Reuters before joining the government in 1917 in what is believed to be the first professional PR officer role in the UK.

He joined the Sheffield Independent for a short period before going back to work for the government until being made redundant and setting up his own PR company called Editorial Services.

The book is available from Amazon.


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  • June 7, 2013 at 9:50 am

    Good on Richard for writing the book, but for anyone to claim to have ‘invented PR’ is a bit like claiming that sex was invented in the 60s. In fact, the dark arts have probably been with us for slightly longer than journalism has been!

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  • June 7, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    I think you will find that Sir Felix Pole of the Great Western Railway and Sir John Elliott of the Southern are generally credited with being the first PR Officers. They both rose to take top jobs on the railways.

    Julius Caesar was also pretty good at PR & Spin – read his history of the conquest of Gaul – as was the Duke of Normandy. For some reason he couldn’t remember founding concentration camps for the families of the Bretton Army to blackmail them to fight for him at Hastings in 1066.

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  • June 10, 2013 at 11:55 am

    The 12 Apostles would probably have a good claim as well !

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