Always the bridesmaid and never the bride, the PR function has traditionally played the role of alter ego to the rich and famous, lieutenant to the mighty and powerful, and henchman to the evil and infamous.
Now, however, PR finally has the opportunity to shake off the mantle of 'second fiddle' and to assume a far more important presence in its own right - at the very nerve centre of the organisation. Technology and the recent global economic recession have a lot to do with the changing fortunes of the PR and communication functions, and the potentially more important role they should perform.
Technology means that the flow of information can quite simply never again be so closely controlled, protected and monitored as was previously the case. This should be the catalyst that forces PR out of its traditional comfort zone and into a far more strategic role that has much more to do with building the long-term credibility of brand and corporate reputation.
The recession for its part has created a 'trust void' in many organisations that only very careful analysis, understanding, patching together, nurturing and promotion can hope to heal. Enter PR and communications, whose rightful role is precisely to manage the DNA - or culture, if you prefer - of the organisation.
It is relatively easy to appreciate that the next band of great companies - small, medium and large - will be those that are clearly differentiated from their competitors not merely in terms of the products they sell or the quality of service they provide, but in terms of the genuine levels of trust they enjoy amongst staff, customers, business partners and the world at large.
Building that trust is what good PR and communication practitioners do. And in a world where increasing sophistication requires increasing specialisation, good PR and communication practitioners have the opportunity to hold organisations together by providing and managing the central cultural benchmark against which all actions within the organisation should be judged. It's not an easy role, but who else is going to do it?
Of course that does mean that the people who practice this function have to be equal to the challenge, which effectively means that they have to abandon a functional mentality in favour of a boardroom mentality.
It also means that PR/communication strategies must be presented as holistic, integrated and measureable devices that go to the very heart of the business strategy itself.
But the upside is that in this brave new world in which PR and communication practitioners become the custodians of an organisation's culture and the promoters of its credibility, Chief Executive Officers and Managing Directors should and will inevitably turn to the PR and communications people for counsel and advice. It is an entirely appropriate relationship.
If message and medium is no longer the primary focus for the PR and communications professions, then credibility and culture surely is. And it is precisely in these areas, which are not only at the heart of the organisation but which actually define and determine corporate personality, where the real professionals have their most important role to play to date.