Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Looking Towards the Future: Goals in PR

The other day I read this packet written by Tom Gable, who is one of the most prominent figures in the PR realm (CEO of the Gable Group and Chairman of Public Relations Society of America), that was distributed at a national public relations workshop put on by the PRSA and attended by thousands of PR professionals. The packet was entitled “Five Major PR Issues for the Next Decade,” and outlined just that.

Surprisingly, the problems did not revolve around the horrible economy and issues such as consolidation, mergers, globalization, etc. The problems focused on the core values facing PR professionals in today’s market, which I found to be interesting after writing about crisis management and story spinning in the past few weeks.

The best thing is that the document was written in 2002, and I thought that now, it being 2008 and more than halfway through the decade he was writing about, it would be fun to look at the problems and make sort of a very informal and unknowledgeable progress report, if you will.

PROBLEM 1: COMMUNICATION. Communication with the media is at an all time low with local news holes shrinking, and publications slowly disappearing as many turn to the web for their information. As a result, PR professionals need to change and reinvent the way that we package and pitch our ideas – we are now catering to a different style of publication and towards crowds that think differently. Communication is quite obviously the key to being in the world of public relations, and the way we communicate with each other, our clients, our media outlets, and the public must be constantly re-examined and re-defined.
GRADE: B+. Many companies have moved towards hiring internet or web technology experts to have on staff and help to develop plans and pitches for online media. Website such as Brandweek and PR Newswire help us all to get our press releases out into the public and share opinions on how to better our internet communication. I personally feel that PR agencies and consultants better understand the importance of the internet and the necessity to cultivate plans specifically for online media than six years ago in 2002.

PROBLEM 2: COMPETITION WITH OTHER CONSULTANTS. Gable describes how lawyers, accountants, and management consultants are out for PR business. Many of these professionals demean and trivialize public relations as a field, saying that we are only good at media relations and event planning. However, we are much more than that: we are positioning, brand building, crisis management planning, long term marketing, and managing reputations. We will not let them take our business and ignore our growing importance that transcends over so many markets.
GRADE: C. I think that this is still a major challenge for people in the public relations field. PR as a field does not get the credit it deserves for all of the strategizing and building of brands that it does, nor the extensive crisis management work involved. Even in just doing internships, I have found people treating me like I am interested in working in a “fluff” industry when in reality we do very concrete things critical to every client’s reputation. I think that continuing in this decade, PR professionals must become more business saavy and focusing on bringing attention to their firms about the things we do for our clients that aren’t just media relations or planning a party.

PROBLEM 3: CREDIBILITY. This is a huge one, and one I have discussed previously in my blog. Gable states: “Are we the profession of spin, or the profession of strategic communications and reputations management?” Public relations professionals are put in ethical dilemmas constantly, and as a result must heavily focus on their standards of business. We need to make sure that we are the forefront of truth and integrity so that we can continue to gain credibility not only as PR individuals or firms/agencies, but more importantly to gain credibility as an industry (relating back to problem #2). Right now PR still competes with those I mentioned above plus the advertising industry to have the responsibility to launch brands and build images – we need our credibility to be steadfast to continue to run this race.
GRADE: A-. I believe that the PR industry is doing a lot to improve their credibility and standards. In the past five years there has been an increase in situations where the philosophy is to tell the truth, get it out there, and then deal with the consequences. One of the reasons for this is our improvement and development of crisis management as a serious and legitimate function of a public relations firm or agency. Maybe an A- is just wishful thinking, but I absolutely think the industry is moving in the correct direction here.

PROBLEM 4: DEFINING PR. Gable here explores the questions of how do agencies demonstrate their relevance to potential clients? How do we explain our importance and legitimacy? Most importantly, how do we measure the impact of our work to report it? PR professionals are working hard to create a true definition for public relations for potential clients, but it is difficult when we market values not products.
GRADE: B. From my amateur point of view, I think that businesses across the nation are recognizing their increasing need for help from public relations. Multiple industries from healthcare to tourism to technology now count on the help of public relations to launch new products or produce a positive image in the public. I think that public relations is becoming much more legitimized in the business area and we are moving in the right direction.

PROBLEM 5: STAFFING. Many workers in the public relations field feel that not enough is done in recruiting for PR, and that not enough action is taken to promote the positive nature of the business and make it attractive to college students and young adults. There is always the fear that the industry can’t recruit the types of people it needs to continue on the upward slope.
GRADE: N/A. I can’t really answer this one because I have no idea what it is like to staff a company, but I will say that they can hire me in a year, so don’t worry :)

Overall, this was a really fun and interesting way to take a look at some of the pressures and issues facing public relations as a field. If you would like to read the document by Gable, click here.

1 comment:

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