Last week I attended a fascinating CIPR event at Manchester Metropolitan University focusing on the ‘future proofing’ of public relations.
The event was supporting the launch of the “biggest ever conversation about the future of public relations” (wwww.futureproofingcomms.co.uk) in the face of an increasing threat from other disciplines such as marketing, digital and management consultants. It was fronted by some of the industry’s leading thinkers on the future of the industry – Stephen Waddington, Sarah Hall and Farzana Baduel.
The PR industry has come a long way in recent years – securing chartered status, more members than ever becoming accredited and now a gold standard chartered status being launched. Unfortunately, the world has not stood still and the competition from other would-be communicators remains fierce. One big positive though, we were told, is that the CIPR and the PRCA are working closely together on addressing these challenges.
Essentially, the argument goes that we are not viewed as being professional enough – either by the public or our ‘competitors in communication.’ We are still being tarnished by the Max Clifford school of public relations which remains the overriding public perception of the industry. And in professional terms, we don’t have the barriers to entry (such as entrance exams) that other professions like doctors and lawyers can boast – so anyone can practice PR. Imagine how you would feel if your ‘doctor’ did not have the qualifications needed to operate on you. I don’t think you would be too keen. Add to this a lack of agreement on how to measure the return on investment (ROI) in PR activities, compared to say marketers, and we have a PR perception problem in several quarters.
But the encouraging news is that the industry has woken up to the considerable challenges it faces. We now have a strong CPD and ethical framework. And the industry is now openly debating what needs to be done to ensure that PR fulfills the strategic management role that academics so often argue for it. The world of communications is changing at breakneck speed and we do constantly need to upskill to stay ahead of the game. However, the key advantage – that PR engages with all stakeholders – remains. A unique position, making it the chief horizon scanner which should put it at at the top table if properly executed. The future of PR remains challenging but positive.
An electronic copy of ‘Futureproof’ can be downloaded from www.futureproofingcomms.co.uk where you can also order a hard copy.
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