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Robert Minton-Taylor on how having a stroke has increased his determination to fight injustices in PR

The personal journey to recovery of PR Robert Minton-Taylor after experiencing a major stroke.

“Now, when the day goes to sleep and the full moon looks, the night is so black that the darkness cooks.” Peter Green’s opening lyrics to ‘Green Manalishi’, the song he wrote for Fleetwood Mac in 1970, had real resonance for me in September 2019.

I was on the Hyper Acute Stroke Unit at Bradford Royal Infirmary. My left side was frozen. I couldn’t lift my arm, hand or leg. My mouth and lips felt as though I had overdosed on lidocaine. I’d had a cerebral haemorrhage.

Had the “Green Manalishi with the two-pronged crown” taken over my brain? My life flashed before me - from my early childhood in 1940s Berlin to the present day. Was I really still alive?

Recovery is a long journey

Thus began a long recovery process. My heroic 14-strong team of NHS professionals at Airedale Hospital painstakingly helped me to regain my dignity and independence. From my bed I cajoled my LinkedIn contacts to fund a specialist wheelchair for patients to have showers rather than a bed baths.

That life changing moment. That moment when life hangs by a thread changes everything.

Post stroke issues? Spurts of energy, followed by exhaustion. Fizziness in hands and limbs a constant. Short-term memory loss. The attention span of a gnat. Mood swings and depression a permanent fixture.

But hey I’m alive. I’m blessed that I’m married to a feminist. She keeps me motivated. She’s my best friend, lover and rock.

Why PRs need to talk about strokes

My stroke gave me the impetus to use my communication skills to work with the West Yorkshire & Harrogate Integrated Stroke Delivery Network and become a governor at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust.

Strokes costs the NHS £3 billion a year and the economy £4 billion in lost productivity. Teenagers get strokes as do women in childbirth.

I want to see GPs and hospitals work closer together so stroke survivors can regain their independence and lead fulfilled lives.

In my 50-year PR career I have worked for 140 clients and taught 1000 students and picked up 48 gongs for my practitioner and university work, but that’s the past..

We need to right wrongs in the PR industry

What matters now is helping to right the wrongs in PR practice. Sure I have campaigned for interns to be paid, volunteered for the Prince’s Youth Business Trust, but what more can I do?

In the 2000s I sat on two CIPR and PRCA commissions with the aim of removing the barriers of entry into the industry.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic I ran a few workshops for the Taylor Bennett Foundation, a charity that encourages black, Asian and minority ethnic graduates to pursue a career in communications. Having read their CVs why had they not been hired? I asked why. “Don’t you get it, it’s because we are black,” came the answer. I felt ashamed.

Racism, sexism and lack of pay equality are still present in our industry. And don’t get me started on the treatment meted out to women returning to work from maternity leave or going through the menopause.

Take a stand to improve PR

Why has so little changed since I began my career in 1967? As PRs we are great with words, but sometimes our actions are wanting.

My focus? Helping to make a difference as a council member of the PRCA and as a member of the Professional Standards Panel of the CIPR.

I want to see sexism, the lack of gender equality and the treatment of black, Asian and minority ethnic executives in PR become a non-issue.

Will that happen in my lifetime? I dearly hope so.

My stroke has given me focus on righting injustices in the PR profession.

Written by Robert Minton-Taylor, PR practitioner, journalist and visiting fellow at Leeds Business School

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