The Future Of Public Relations Is Bright – The View From Above

March 19th, 2010

Gary McCormickAs you may know from my last BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas post, I had the pleasure of attending and serving on a panel at the PRSA/PRSSA Pro-Am Day in St. Louis.The some 120 attendees (about half being college communications majors), myself included, were fortunate to meet new PRSA president/CEO Gary McCormick and listen to him speak. His luncheon presentation, “A Tale of Two Sides: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” addressed why the future of PR is bright – while acknowledging the downturned economy and shuttering of many print media outlets.

McCormick began with the “Three E’s Bringing Change.”

  • Economy – budgets are down and value propositions are up, making it more difficult to succeed in the marketplace.
  • Environment – trust is down, number of messages is down, and audiences now expect to provide input.
  • Effects Strengthened Through PR/Partnerships – public relations understands how to build and sustain beneficial relationships; transference of credibility moves the messages faster and feedback is more immediate and helps facilitate needed change.

McCormick cited a number of statistics and studies to prove his point that current changes are good for PR. For example, according to, PR tops other communication disciplines, such as advertising and journalism, in the listing of top 200 jobs. The annual Veronis Suhler Stevenson study predicts a consolidated aggregated growth rate for public relations as nearly 10 percent for the years 2008-2012.  Even in a downturned economy, spending on PR in the U.S. grew by more than 4 percent in 2008 and nearly 3 percent in 2009 – to $3.7 billion.  And, finally, the rise of the Internet and social media has given PR a big boost.

Why else does McCormick think the future of PR is bright? Things like: advances in technology, changing role of traditional media, reduced trust in business, 24/7 immediate/global news cycle, segmentation of messages and authentication of sources, the ongoing turf war on owning social media, and the fact that organizations will no longer own messages/messaging and that actions will define reputation are all benefits influencing the landscape of public relations.

Finally, he made the following suggestions for preparing for the future:

  1. Focus on strategy, not tactics
  2. Include all the tools available
  3. Integrate and innovate
  4. Embrace the new normal
  5. Deliver more listening points than talking points
  6. Maintain your individual brand ethics

What do you think? Are you beginning to see an upturn in business? How are the current media and economic environments affecting the way you do public relations? Share your thoughts with me and the readers of Fresh Ideas.

5 Responses to “The Future Of Public Relations Is Bright – The View From Above”

  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

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  2. David Rosen says:

    I’d like to believe McCormick is right. In theory he should be. His arguments are right. Relationships and reputations are what count in the long run. Building and sustaining these, and framing messages, has traditionally been the focus of public relations. But I see branding replacing true reputation building and marketing subsuming public relations, not just in the corporate world but also in higher education where I’ve worked for the past 25 years. During this period, I’ve seen the focus and names of the communications offices change from public information to public relations (or public affairs) and more recently marketing. The focus is on generating immediate sales rather than establishing trust and sowing the seeds of long-term relationships that will result in sustained support over the years.

    Marketing and public relations were once separate albeit integrated and mutually supportive disciplines. Not so any more. Perhaps the pendulum will swing back. I hope so and believe so, but see little evidence of it yet.

    The decline of print and for the matter broadcast news and the ascendance of pervasive but unreliable social media have further muddied the picture. These new tools are here to stay in one form or another. Are they, should they, be the realm of PR or marketing? Let’s save that discussion for another day.

  3. David, I see where you’re coming from – it seems that these days it’s all about instant gratification ($) rather than long-term relationships. I’m not sure any of us “really” know where things are headed. Thanks for your thoughts!

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