Max Clifford's conviction last week represents a fall from grace of almost Biblical proportions. For a man so used to shaping the news agenda to his liking, the past few weeks have been a crushing encounter with nemesis.
Mr Clifford will have plenty of time to contemplate his future, doubtless at some point in the less than Orwellian surroundings that The Skull Cracker absconded from a couple of days ago. But the more urgent evaluation of the future falls to the PR industry with which he has been for so long associated.
For many people, Max Clifford was PR. As much as industry bodies such as mine insisted on calling him 'a publicist' and nothing to do with my industry, our voice was always drowned out by his. As he was sentenced last week, the media routinely described him as part of the PR industry. That's just a fact of life -in truth, he's pretty much always going to be described that way. And actually, a good proportion of our industry think he was (or indeed is?) part of it. We polled our most senior members last week. Half of them agreed with the media's description of him as a PR practitioner. Slightly over half also thought that PR's image had been damaged by the saga.
Now I might take issue with some of the views expressed in those polls. I might say that he was fundamentally outside the boundaries of respectability in our industry. That he didn't ever subscribe to the PRCA's Professional Charter -not least because I imagine he would have breached it in about a week and been expelled. That if he ever did represent PR, those days died twenty years ago as PR evolved and he stood still.
But all of that would be to deal with the world as we would like it to be, rather than the world as it is. And one of the key functions of modern, professional PR is to deal with, to shape and to reflect reality not fantasy.
So perhaps the time has come, rather than rage impotently at the media describing Clifford as a PR man, to -as another disputed voice of PR, Alistair Campbell might say- concede and move on. Concede the fact that he was the face of PR for many; celebrate the fact that he'll be giving rather fewer media interviews over the next few years; move on to finding other positive PR role models.
Because there are many alternative aspects to the industry I represent. There are the corporate specialists, key advisers to FOOTSIE CEOs. The charity comms directors. The Government officers running major campaigns changing public behaviour. The professionals behind every major consumer brand in the world. The people whose insight and advice shifts money and markets.
There's the fact that even in the downturn, PR grew. That it now employs more people than journalism. That the UK does actually lead the world in this field. That PR brings money and jobs to our country.
Those are all positives that deserve to be heard. And perhaps a welcome period of silence from Mr Clifford will allow my industry to fill the void he's leaving.