Public Relations is a young business, less than a century old in its American birthplace and even younger across the world. Bob Leaf, the first international chairman of Burson-Marsteller, the world’s first international PR agency, wasn’t there at the birth of PR, but he was one of a very select group of people who were responsible for helping this young business to grow up. He took a very American export and made it global. The fact that this has happened during this man’s working life-time reminds us how recently PR became so pervasive. In the second decade of the twenty-first century there are few leading business people who do not understand the value to their business of PR, many of them admittedly having learned this the hard way. Just ten years ago let alone forty this was very far from the case and Bob Leaf’s memoir of a life in PR ‘The Art of Perception’ tells the story of this journey.
In this book, Bob paints a vivid of the fast-moving and agenda-changing world of international public relations through more than four decades when the arts of perception became established as essential business tools. Like all great business pioneers, including those whose names are now echoed in the most powerful brands on the planet, Bob tells a tale the simplicity of which belies the courage and invention of the people who create greatness. He was there with Harold Burson at the beginning of the journey which established Burson-Marsteller as the first and biggest international PR agencies. Leaf’s account of country by country development through these years reminds us just how recently PR has been on the scene beyond US shores.
Bob Leaf is a rare American who has become global in his thinking, demonstrated by his appreciation of local cultural sensitivities and differences. In some respects this book reads more like a novel than an autobiography with great stories and engaging characters. It is an important read for anyone in or wanting to be in the PR business, and an entertaining read for just about anyone interested in international business growth at the sharp end. The author was a pioneer and is still a master of the art of perception.