Portland now has offices in New York, Nairobi and London – something I never imagined when I set up the company ten years ago. But the global nature of our work takes us well beyond these places. In recent months, our team has travelled the world advising corporations, governments and NGOs on five continents.
This globe-trotting is reflected in a series of essays in a new international editon of the Portland Quarterly which tackle issues as diverse as, the causes and impact of the Arab spring and how London’s courts have become the global jurisdiction of choice.
With much being made of the impact of the role of the social media in toppling entrenched regimes, Jordan’s former Minister of State for Communications Nabil Sharif issues a stark warning to governments who believe censorship still works. Portland’s Noha Elbadawy, who is herself Egyptian, looks at the impact of social networks on her country’s democratic revolution, moving the conversation beyond the 140 characters that Twitter provides. Her colleague Sophie Middlemiss, formerly of the Foreign Office, looks at how international organisations should respond to similar media challenges.
We look, too, at internet freedom. Fresh off his appearance at a recent Portland dinner, Google’s D-J Collins takes on the challenge of promoting freedom of expression online and the threats that the internet and its users face from censorship around the world. Interestingly, it is not only the usual suspects who want to close down or censor the free flow of information and opinions.
We are also pleased to host an exclusive interview with my old boss, Alastair Campbell. Alastair, who has done about as much as anyone to put London’s communications professionals on the map, answers our questions on everything from super-injunctions to the status of the Coalition.
This tour of global issues returns its focus to London’s role in the world with two contributions about Portland specialist practices. Idil Oyman, an American who has crossed the Atlantic in the opposite direction to me, examines London’s position as jurisdiction of choice for litigation. Africa specialist Rob Watkinson examines London’s continued importance for those wanting to invest in the continent which now rest on far more than old colonial links.
So why has London emerged as the preeminent city in the global communications industry? To me, there are three key reasons.
First, like any estate agent would tell you, location is king. London’s central time zone, half way between the developing economies of the East and North America in the West, working from London allows businesses to make a difference across the world in one working day.
Second, the concentration of capital markets and global media make London an ideal base for communication companies. Whether it is helping to raise funds for new ventures in Africa or targeting world-leading publications like the Financial Times or the Economist, London hosts a concentration of soft power. The BBC’s worldwide impact remains critically strong in influencing coverage and issues globally.
Third, PR and communications professionals in London have learnt their craft in a deeply hostile media environment, and in a highly competitive industry. The industry has professionalised hugely over the last few years and attracts executives with enormous creativity and flare. They are the best in the business so it is not surprising that they now bring their skills to communications challenges around the world. At Portland we employ the best of the best and we look forward to continuing to developing an increasingly international focus to our work.
Please click here for this International Edition of the Portland Quarterly.