Weber Shandwick CEO Harris Diamond’s USC Commencement Speech: ‘The Flack, of all People, Is Lecturing You About Truth’

Weber Shandwick CEO Harris Diamond was recently the the first public relations professional ever to speak at an Annenberg School of Journalism commencement ceremony.

The University of Southern California school hosted Diamond this past weekend, where he urged students to seek the truth in their work.

“The new paradigm holds that everything is opinion, everything is relative, everything is spin. Information is in the eye of the communicator. Communication is about controversy, not information,” he said.

“This is what I mean by the assault on information. The facts — the truths — that used to establish limits for PR and aspirations for journalism are under attack.”

“The flack, of all people, is lecturing you about truth,” he said, followed by laughter. “And you haven’t even heard the worst of it. I’m also a lawyer.”

Over breakfast in Manhattan this morning, Diamond told PRNewser that those wanting to catch another commencement speech by him will have to wait.

The USC speech is the only one he will be giving this season.

Diamond was happy to highlight Weber Shandwick’s recent win of the corporate and consumer PR account for Microsoft in Asia, calling the tech space “vibrant” and one of areas in PR he sees as continuing to grow.

Asked about whether social media presents a threat or opportunity to the PR industry, Diamond said, “the more [communications] platforms there are, the better for our business.”

He also said budgets are coming back. “In the past, three to four million [dollars] was large,” said Diamond. “Now, it’s five million and upwards.”

Getting back to his USC speech and the theme of “truth,” Diamond reiterated his concerns. “If the information we are getting is unreliable; if the truth doesn’t matter; if facts don’t exist; if reality itself is a commodity anyone can manufacture; then communication is a service – whether provided by journalists or flacks – that nobody needs to buy,” he said