In the United States, Public Relations dates back to the Revolutionary War. The strategies and tactics used to swell the ranks of patriots dedicated to the Revolutionary cause and staging of the Boston Tea Party are examples of early public relations. President Thomas Jefferson first used the term “public relations” in 1807. In his “Seventh Address to the Congress,” he replaced the words “state of thought” with “public relations.”
Unfortunately, the perception of public relations has not always been positive. In the 1800s, P.T. Barnum became a master publicist by generating article after article for his traveling circus. His “public be damned” philosophy and the use of exploitative publicity methods, however; have contributed to criticism of the profession.
Another significant component to the profession’s development came from the Creel Committee during World War I. A member of the committee, Edward L. Bernays, later considered by many to be the father of public relations, was part of a massive verbal and written communications effort to gain support of the war. According to Bernays, “this was the first time in our history that information was used as a weapon of war.”
There were other key people and events, which were very influential in promoting the growth of the public relations industry such as:
- “Public be informed era”, Ivy Lee – “father of PR”
- WWII – the Office of War Information
- “Counseling era” – Edward Bernays taught the first PR course at NYU in 1923
- Bernays wife, Doris Fleischman, was influential in paving the way for women in the industry. Together, they created Edward L. Bernays, Counsel on Public Relations, which became a top agency.
Some of the top PR practitioners in the 20th Century, according to PRWeek, are Harold Burson, Edward Bernays, Arthur Page, Larry Foster and Ivy Lee.
Major Practices of Public Relations
One thing that is not commonly known about the Public Relations industry is that it is a very complex business that involves many different elements and areas of expertise. Counseling, Research, Media Relations, Publicity, Employee/Member Relations, Community Relations, Public Affairs, Government Affairs, Issues Management, Financial Relations, Industry Relations, Development/Fund Raising, Minority Relations/Multicultural Affairs, Crisis Management, Special Events and Public Participation and Marketing Communications are all elements of Public Relations according to the PRSA Foundation.
Media Relations deals with communicating the organization’s messages to selected reporters and editors and then, following up to see if the message is reported accurately. Evaluation is an important and often overlooked part of this process. Public Affairs has to deal with developing effective involvement in public policy and helping an organization adapt to public expectations. Also, it is also a term used by military services and some governmental agencies to describe their public relations activities. Issues Management is identifying and addressing issues of public concern in which an organization is, or should be, concerned. Industry Relations is dealing with other firms in the industry of an organization, and with the trade associations related with that organization. Marketing Communications is a combination of activities designed to sell a product, service or idea, including advertising, collateral material, publicity, promotion, packaging, point-of-sale display, trade shows and special events.
An organization of today cannot operate in a vacuum. Many audiences are listening and watching. When something negative happens, there are groups that will use it to attack the organization. The best crisis plan is PREVENTIVE, not reactive. Identifying the possible things that could go wrong that would have a negative impact on the organization is a key step in the crisis management process. Prioritize them as to likelihood and degree of negative impact. Then address each by asking “what are we doing now to prevent this from happening?” A Crisis Plan should include responses to the list of possible problems and who’s responsible, what to say and what NOT to say during a crisis.
Maintaining a favorable relationship with the communities in which the organization has an interest is also crucial. Community Relations is continuing, planned and active participation with and within a community. Before beginning a Public Relations plan, the client must be made aware of how they stand in the eyes of their publics. The best way to do this is to run a Communication Audit. Communication Audits are strategic, research-based processes of evaluating an organization’s communications (and sometimes, marketing) program by using interviews of key audiences, focus groups, surveys, evaluations of an organization’s communications vehicles. The end result is a report that includes the research as well as recommendations on how the organization can improve its communications.
On top of the different major practices of Public Relations, there are also different areas of expertise. Corporate PR, Entertainment PR, Government PR, Technology PR, Finance PR, Health PR and Sports PR are all different areas of the business. Each of these areas is self-explanatory, but are not limited to only practicing in one area. For example, if you work for a famous athlete, one would need to exercise Sports PR and Entertainment PR. Consequently, there are many different areas of Public Relations in which to apply all the major practice areas. One of these areas is Media Relations.
Media relations personnel have many responsibilities as public relations practitioners in the various fields that make up the profession. They are the direct link between the media and the organization, whether it is a sports team, a corporation or a non-profit. Media kits, press releases, setting up interviews and releasing their organizations information are all responsibilities of media relations personnel. Journalists and media outlets receive the vast majority of their information about organizations for news stories through the work of media relations personnel. They are the gatekeepers of information about the organization they work for. An example of these responsibilities can be explained by exploring the duties of a sports information director (SID), otherwise known as the media relations person, for a college athletic department.
In the off-season, the sports information director is responsible for updating the team roster, preparing the team media guide, which includes player/coach profiles, player/team statistics, and team history such as titles won, awards, etc. During the season the SID is responsible for updating player and team statistics after every game so they are readily available to be dispersed to the media and to the coaching staff. This information is also prepared in order to be uploaded to the team website so that the information is easily accessible. The SID is also in charge of making sure the media have parking passes and media passes reserved so that they have access to the game events. The sports information director also attends team practices to set up interviews with coaches and players for the media. The SID also does this on game days. Game day activities also include making media guides, statistics, team schedules, lineups, and any other relevant information accessible to the media. During the game, the SID records the statistics and must be sure to give the media updated statistics that change during the coarse of the game. The SID must also issue the final box score to the media at the end of the game. Post game responsibilities include faxing the final box scores and statistics to all the local newspapers and television stations. Because the University of Texas is covered extensively throughout the nation, these statistics and box scores must also be faxed to ESPN, Sportsticker, and the Associated Press. After the game, the SID is also in charge of writing the press release and sending it to the Associated Press. All of this must be done in a timely fashion because of deadlines for journalists.
Meeting deadlines is just one of the guidelines a media relations person must remember to do when assisting reporters. A media relations person must also remember to always be available to the media, to be truthful, to treat every reporter as equal as the next, to be accurate when issuing out information, and to politely correct mistakes made by journalists. These are all important qualities for a media relations professional to uphold.
Media relations is an important part of any organization. An organization that has a strong media relations department has a significant advantage over an organization without productive media relations personnel. Media relations personnel are the link to the media, which decides whether to cover a story on an organization or not. This is why a strong media relations department can be such an asset to an organization; the media relations department can be the determinant as to whether their organization’s news gets coverage. The more positive news coverage an organization receives, the more the public is aware of the organization overall. Keeping an organization in the eye of the public and being viewed in a positive light is what makes media relations such a necessity in an era where news is so easily accessible by the general population.
Ethics in Public Relations
Ethics has various meanings as it is applied to public relations and the individuals working within that field. In the past, terms such as “cover-up” and “spin” have given public relations a negative image because they imply that PR work is somewhat unethical or underhanded. Today, many corporations are covering up their dealings with others, using deception and half-truths that shake the credibility of the institution. However, positive qualities such as honesty and sharing news with the public also have some companies stressing the need for ethical dealings in the marketplace. Ethics and credibility are slowly re-emerging in the field of public relations, pressuring an attitude change.
Despite preconceived and stereotypical notions about the practice of public relations, it is crucial that people in the industry set high ethical standards. In fact, the public relations worker should be the ethical voice within the corporation. This position of responsibility requires public relations professionals to advise their clients in ethical decision making, advising them towards the truth and away from deception.
Leadership is a quality that should resonate in all active public relations professionals, especially when implementing ethical practices. Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has developed a code of ethics to help its members develop leadership qualities. The six core values of PRSA suggest ideal behavior for public relations practitioners. Advocacy, honesty, expertise, independence, loyalty, and fairness comprise attributes of the Public Relations Society of America’s ethical code.
An organization’s social responsibility also relates to the code of ethics of an organization. The social organization is responsible for establishing norms that control and define the actions and mistakes of its members. Being socially responsible includes every department of an organization. Examples of social responsibility categories are: marketing practices, corporate philanthropy, environmental activities, external relations, employment diversity in retaining and promoting minorities and women. Today, social responsibility is integrated into most departments of an organization.
Corporate codes of conduct are another aspect of corporate social responsibility, ensuring that every person within the company implements ethics. After Enron’s scandal, many codes of conduct have been implemented, but the companies do not all share the same motivation for using the codes. Corporate codes of conduct help improve internal operations, respond to transgressions, increase public confidence, and stem the tide of outside regulation. The most important form of conduct that all corporations should follow is to always tell the truth.
The public relations industry is at a turning point that depends on how public relations practitioners react ethically to situations. Credibility is essential for ensuring continued value of the public relations profession. Most importantly, ethical practices are crucial to demonstrate that corporations can be honest. Such ethical practices will require constant dedication by public relations professionals to project the image of the public relations field as one of credibility and truth.
Public Relations Firms
To create impactful visual communications for clients through branding, collateral and information design. Our mission is to ensure that both the strategy and messaging are as elegant as the visual execution. Our design staff is as global as our largest clients, so that we can provide solutions that cross borders and audiences with ease and grace.
Healthcare, Technology, Corporate, Consumer, Arts/Culture, Public Affairs/Global Issues, and Travel/Tourism.
Porter Novelli’s agency partners and employees encompass the research, experience, expertise and fresh thinking that demonstrate the agency’s breadth and depth of intellectual capital in a variety of fields. Using white papers, research studies and PN IQ – Insights Quarterly – the agency’s own journal of key learnings and best practices, Porter Novelli has created vehicles for continuous improvement in our key practice areas and in disciplines important to our clients.
Consumer, Public Affairs, Corporate Affairs, Healthcare and Technology
Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide
Our clients all live in competitive worlds. To compete successfully, they need access to high quality information, strategic advice and specialist communications skills. With leading practitioners in all key marketing disciplines, WPP companies are happy to work as single suppliers or in partnership with each other.
Advertising, Media Investment Management, Information, Consulting, Public Affairs, Branding, Healthcare, and Specialized Communications.
Cohn and Wolfe began in Georgia in 1970. Today the company has several female leaders. Of the 11 managing directors, nine are women. The leader of Cohn and Wolfe worldwide is another woman, Donna Imperato. Cohn and Wolfe is best known for its connection to the Olympics. In 1980, Coke put C&W in charge of all their Olympic public relations activities. C&W has been involved in every Olympics since then, with a variety of products. For example, in the 1996 summer games in hot and stifling Atlanta, C&W worked for York air conditioners to make their contributions of cool air known at the games. Currently C&W is headquartered out of London. IN 1984 they were bought by Y&R. Then when Y&R was bought by WPP in 2000, C&W became part of the WPP family. Locally, they just acquired Springbock Tech. – Texas’s largest PR firm specializing in technology PR.
Manning, Selvage and Lee is an international PR firm based out of London. They have 28 owned offices and 70 affiliates. Their key areas of work are consumer marketing, corporate communications and finance/ investor relations. Some of their exciting clients include GMAC Financial Services, Proctor and Gamble and X-Box. They are also award winners. In 2003 they were voted a Holmes Report Agency of the Year. In 2004 they won a PRSA Silver Anvil award for the Heart of Diabetes Campaign.
Edelman is a large firm. They have 1800 employees in 40 offices. This makes Edelman one of the largest remaining independents. Their mission is to provide public relations counsel and strategic communications services that enable their clients to build strong relationships and to influence attitudes and behaviors in a complex world. Worldwide, they have a broad international network but they struggle with poor leadership in Europe. In Asia, Edelman has watched steady growth, up by 20 percent last year.
Edelman’s main practices include corporate, crisis management, financial relations, entertainment, food, government, marketing, public affairs, sports, travel and design. To accomplish all this, Edelman is made up of four specialty firms. Blue is the advertising firm, First and 42nd is a management consulting firm, StrategyOne is their research firm and BioScience Communications works with medical education and publishing.
As part of the Interpublic Group, Golin Harris has a wide reach throughout the world. Their reach extends to 27000 employees in 100 countries. They have a variety of key areas of expertise. They work in corporate communications and utilize CrossMedia which works to produce broadcast PR. They also work with investors and have a capable Investor Relations department. They also work in the areas of marketing and branding. As the world of technology expands Golin Harris continues to be a leader in technology related public relations.
Corporate Public Relations
In the wake of corporate scandals and rocky economic pitfalls large corporations have taken into special consideration the importance of their organization’s image. Thus, the growth and development of the PR department has begun to play a pivotal role in the corporate world. By examining the structure of PR departments and its role, we hope to grasp a basic knowledge PR in the corporate world.
The majority of PR professionals are employed by the corporate world rather than in agencies. It’s also helpful to note that many corporations are now referring their PR departments as Corporate Communications or Public Affairs. Yet, just because a corporation has its own PR department does not rule out the option of using an agency, or multiple agencies for that matter, to gain specialization or outside help for the corporation. It is common for corporations to seek the expertise of an agency to aid them in crisis management, host a special event or for a fresh perspective. Another outside However, the PR department within the corporation has the unique advantage of knowing the inner atmosphere of the company.
Each corporation will vary in the structure of its PR department depending on the industry and needs of the company. The department can range from one person to many hundreds within the corporation. For example, Exxon Mobil has a substantially sized department with international offices and countless staff members. While there is no one set way to organize a PR department, the most successful ones are those who have direct access to top-level executives. Direct interaction with the CEO is important to know exactly what to communicate, what publics need attention, and any important issues that may affect the company.
One of the primary functions of the PR department include ensuring that relations with stakeholders such as employees, investors, and the public are in check by keeping open communication. To ensure good employee relations departments must ensure that the staff are readily informed with what is happening within the company. Internal publications, memos, pamphlets or intranet access are often used as a clear channel to communicate with employees. Often times for investors and stockholders, the PR department will inform them with company updates via newsletters or special events.
When it’s time for a new product or service rollout, it’s the PR department that organizes the press conference, which may include writing speeches for the CEO and putting together press kits. A press kit is a foundation for what the press needs to know about why there is a press conference in the first place. It will include bios of the CEO or other main people involved with the event, pictures, background information, contact information, a press release, and maybe even a CD-ROM. One of the most important communications the PR department provides is organizing the company’s annual report, which includes a financial overview, a letter from the CEO, salary changes, etc. It basically touches on the ins and outs of the company. A company, for instance McDonald’s, will often put its annual report on the internet which is a great tool the PR department uses to give up-to-date information on the company.
The Public Relations department is also responsible for ensuring the company’s image by promoting good relations with the community in which the company and its subsidiaries are located. Philanthropy is important to that image and by organizing or sponsoring events that provide services to the community, or nationally, to support things such as education and diversity. In addition, the opinions of the various publics a company has is very important to know how best to communicate and formulate the company’s image. Research is vital to doing so and can be done by the PR department by gathering the information themselves or going through a research company.
Overall, Corporate Public Relations does everything an agency does, except with a few more “in-housecleaning” demands. The department has more knowledge of the internal organization of the company. The only difference may be bias due to the fact that the PR department is a part of the internal politics of the company. Nevertheless, Corporate Public Relations is a strong arm in the PR Industry and will continue to be so.
The structure of a non-profit organization is easily simplified. The organization will base its communication efforts on their mission, objective, and goals. The mission is the basic purpose of the organization including what it is trying to accomplish. For example, “The mission of Mothers Against Drunk Driving is to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime, and prevent underage drinking.”-MADD
Objectives simply communicate the general direction the organization is taking, and goals form the specific actions—such as time, budget,etc.—needed to accomplish the mission. Goals are specific and measurable so the organization has the opportunity to evaluate its progress. After determining its goals, publics, competition, and so forth, the organization can form a marketing strategy. The organization can then implement and eventually evaluate its communication efforts.
Three examples of organizations using very different marketing techniques are MADD, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and Austin Lyric Opera (ALO). MADD is an organization benefiting society. It is one of the most successful grass roots campaigns in history.
MADD utilizes its members by sending them as speakers to schools, and legislation. Hearing a mother’s first hand account at the slow death of her daughter has an enormous impact of her audience. The Lance Armstrong Foundation does well with media coverage. Their news coverage and article placements have made their name well known. They began the rubber wristband craze and use Lance Armstrong as a celebrity spokesperson.
Austin Lyric Opera deals with several different types of public relations. There is a community relation with the company’s patrons and for the children and parents attending the ALO music school. There are also investor relations with season ticket holders and people who regularly give large donations. This usually includes large special events and fundraisers throughout the year. ALO also combines several techniques including PSAs, commercials, brochures, direct mail, fundraising, and special events. Despite all the different missions of non-profit organizations, they are all similar in their structures and limited resources. By using small public relations departments to do several functions, they have been able to experience a wide range of communication tools.
Public Relations Organizations
Professional PR Organizations
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), chartered in 1947 is the world’s largest organization for public relations professionals. PRSA’s vision is to unify, strengthen, and advance the profession of public relations. It has established itself as the organization, which builds value, demand, and global understanding for public relations.
PRSA has nearly 20,000 members, in 114 chapters, the world’s largest organization for public relations professionals. These members represent a variety of categories such as technology, government, associations, and nonprofit organizations, to name a few.
According to the PRSA website, “their primary objectives are to advance the standards of the public relations profession and to provide members with professional development opportunities through continuing education programs, information exchange forums, and research projects conducted on the national and local levels.”
The three core areas of focus are 1) advancing the profession, 2) strengthening the society, and 3) establishing global leadership.
Membership in PRSA is on an individual, not organizational basis. There are two categories of membership: member and Associate member. Each category has specific eligibility requirements. One specific requirement for all members however is adherence to the PRSA Code of Ethics.
The PRSA Code of Ethics is an important document to the Public Relations Industry and focuses on 6 specific areas, advocacy, honesty, fairness, expertise, independence, and loyalty. This code was last updated in October 2000. Two quotes from the preamble illustrate how strongly the PRSA Board of Directors feels about the ethical conduct of its members. It begins with “The Code of Ethics is designed to be a guide for members as they carry our their ethical responsibilities” and concludes with the following statement “Ethical practice is the most important obligation of a PRSA member.”
As a member of PRSA, a person has access to many resources for personal and professional development. The Professional Resource Center provides access to award-winning public relations campaign profiles, timely information on industry trends, and helpful campaign development resources. A member is eligible to secure low group cost insurance for members and their employees. PRSA members are also eligible for online product discounts with Office Depot, free subscriptions to Public Relations Tactics and The Strategist, as well as discounts on other publications through the PRSA store.
One other very important resource for members and non-members is the PRSA website, which is user friendly and provides a great amount of information. Here you can find job opportunities, access a calendar for PRSA events, and find out information about the various awards, including The Silver Anvil Award. There are also directories and publications listed. These are useful resources to locate other PRSA members or use as reference materials to keep up with current trends in the industry.
The Texas Public Relations Association (TPRA) began in 1953 in San Antonio and has since expanded into a statewide organization that serves PR practitioners all over Texas. It established a “Code of Ethics” that sets the standard for the Texas PR industry. The Code focuses on high expectations of honesty, integrity, fairness, respect, accuracy, truth and many other characteristics. Members are encouraged to abide by these Codes for the betterment of the public and the PR industry.
There are many benefits in having a membership in TPRA. TPRA holds conferences and seminars throughout the year to further the education of PR practitioners. Practitioners gather to discuss emerging trends and issues, successes and problems, and the new skills needed to survive in this rapidly evolving industry. Guest speakers are brought in to offer help and advice on how to respond to the ever changing demands of the typical PR job.
TPRA members also have a chance at winning statewide recognition at the only Texas PR awards program. The Best of Texas Awards honor the best in specific public relations activities, and the Silver Spur Awards recognize outstanding public relations programs. Individuals who contribute to TPRA and the profession can also receive the Golden Spur, Outstanding PR Practitioner, Rising Star, and New Member Achievement awards.
TPRA members are given valuable networking tools, such as being listed in the “Who’s Who in Texas Public Relations” directory and building relationships with peers across the state. The directory is also a source of information to public relations agencies and executive research and media firms.
The TPRA website also posts job and internship opportunities for those PR professionals looking for new experiences or work. The website also features reference sources, news sources, and professional sites involving the PR industry.
TPRA and its foundation, the Public Relations Foundation of Texas (PRFT), sponsor student awards programs and provide multiple resources to help further the education of future PR practitioners.
TPRA has recently been promoting their group membership fees. Now, the Group Membership Plan allows for registration fees and dues to be reduced when four or more people from the same employer join. This allows companies to sponsor more memberships for their employees and for TPRA to continue its growth.
Though once dominated by white men, the field of Public Relations is becoming more diverse.
PR Publications and Job Opportunities
Public Relations Publications
In the Public Relations arena, there are many different but important publications that serve to inform professionals, individual clients and businesses. Most of these are of the “trade publication” genre, containing industry information for differing publics. For the purposes of this report, the publications will be differentiated by whether they are produced and sponsored by PRSA or individually.
PRSA distributes two major publications, Public Relations Tactics, the monthly tabloid, and The Strategist, the quarterly magazine for the leaders in the industry. There catch phrase is that they continue to provide members with timely sources of what’s new and what’s news in public relations, and by way of trade publications they are two of the most successful for the public relations industry. Public Relations Tactics and The Strategist are generally included in a PRSA membership for some small additional fee and according to PRSA’s Website; they have the highest value rankings for all benefits offered to the PRSA membership. Tactics is an easier-to-read tabloid full of practical how-to articles with information and practices for professionals to put into action immediately. The Strategist addresses executive-level public relations practitioners with debates and commentary concerning PR issues of today and is mailed quarterly.
Independent publications include PRWeek, O’Dwyer’s, PR Watch, Buzz Magazine, PR Newswire and an online magazine called PR & Marketing. All of these publications have Websites which offer fairly extensive information regarding their services freely to the public. With the exception of Buzz Magazine, which is specifically a career-based magazine for PR professionals looking for job advances in the field, these magazines all consider themselves a resource for individuals at all stages of their PR careers and serve the public with supplemental education on the industry to help increase knowledge and love for the field.
PR Job Opportunities
A simple bachelor’s degree in public relations is no longer enough to acquire a job. To enter the world of public relations, one must have hands on experience in the field. To get this experience, the first step in a public relations career is an internship. An internship is essential for someone wanting to enter the field through an agency. After an internship, an entry-level position within an agency is account coordinator. A non-agency entry-level public relations position may be public relations coordinator or communications coordinator. These positions often require one to two years of work experience and a bachelor’s degree. The average pay for such positions is $30K a year. After about two to three years of experience, one can become an account executive or a public relations specialist. This position on average pays $38K a year. After this stage in a typical public relations career path, the next position up is an account manager, a public relations manager, or a public relations director. These jobs usually require an advanced degree and at least five years of work experience. The median salary for this stage is $54.5K a year. Beyond this level, a public relations professional might grow to be an executive of the corporation (VP Public Relations), or start his or her own public relations firm. At this point, the salary can be well into the six figures.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2000 and 2010, wage and salary jobs in the management and public relations services industry are expected to grow by 42 percent. This figure is nearly triple the 16 percent growth anticipated for all other industries together, making public relations amid the most rapidly growing industries. Due to the growth of the public relations field, public relations practitioners tend to be well paid, although the range of compensation tends to be broad. Wages depend on such aspects as the individuals’ qualifications and experience, responsibilities of the position, financial strength of the organization, and the general state of the economy. Recent college graduates who are members of the Public Relations Student Society of America and have had some experience can expect a higher than average salary.
Public relations professionals do not have typical days at work. Every day is different and filled with a work schedule that is irregular and often interrupted. Thus, the nine-to-five schedules of other professions do not apply here. A public relations office is normally under high pressure conditions because everyone is working hard to meet the tight deadlines. With their busy days, a public relations practitioner is not tied down to his or her own desk. They are busy doing things like searching for details for a press release, community functions, briefing their management, among many other tasks.
To find such a job, a recent college graduate has many choices when it comes to beginning their job hunt. The Communication Career Services is a good place to start. Also, if he or she is a member of PRSA, their job bank has excellent resources. Other notable places to search for a job are the Council of Public Relations Firms (prfirms.org) and AboutPublicRelations.net. These job services provide a good way to find a job in the public relations field. But just remember, when it comes to landing that first real job, experience is everything.
Future of Public Relations
The practice of public relations is continually evolving and re-formatting itself to include a broad array of functions. Though once viewed with a traditionally print-oriented emphasis, PR has now shifted to that of a multi-faceted marketing discipline. The future of PR proves itself to be limitless. As technology advances, so do the requirements of the public relations practitioner.
The emergence of the Internet and the World Wide Web has created a new and valuable resource for PR professionals. As the nation’s most used resource for information, the Internet connects and provides communication to millions of American consumers every day. This provides for a simple and low cost medium for PR practitioners to convey their desired message to the public. By creating and implementing a comprehensive online campaign, companies can save time and money on distribution costs and materials such as paper, yet still successfully get their message out to their desired publics via the Internet. Advances in technology have also allowed for specially designed software to be created for the use of PR departments and agencies. Software like Bacon’s Media Map can be purchased by PR professionals to provide immediate and updated contact information for reporters and editorial contacts worldwide. Information about each publication, such as distribution size and preferred ways of contact, are included.
Along with advanced software, the Internet has also supplied practitioners with a new insight into public opinion. The emergence of blogs, or online web journals, enable PR departments to immediately retrieve information on public opinion that may have otherwise been unknown or inaccessible to them. Many political websites in particular use online blogs to communicate to and receive immediate comments from their constituents.
Another topic to consider when examining the future of public relations is professional billing. Instead of the traditional hourly billing used among most public relations firms to date, many UK public relations firms are now beginning to implement a one-time pay scale, due to the recent inflated need for PR. Instead of billing a client per hour, the client is now presented with a price upfront, and can separate payments to pay for various functions. For example, a client may be billed $200 dollars for a press release, $500 for a press conference, or $1,000 for an hour-long consultation. This system is slowly beginning to emerge in many newly formed US PR firms, and may soon replace the traditional form of billing.
Along with implementing financial changes, many are now also fighting for the practice of licensing PR professionals. One famous PR practitioner in particular, who felt strongly on the issue, was Edward Bernays. His definition of a Public Relations council was that it is “an applied social scientist who advises a client on the social attitudes and actions he or she must take in order to appeal to the public on which it is dependent. The practitioner ascertains, through research, the adjustment or maladjustment of the client with the public, then advises what changes in attitude and action are demanded to reach the highest point of adjustment to meet social goals.” Bernays understood that anyone one could call themselves a PR professional regardless of the amount of education they had on the subject. Before he died, Bernays wrote bills to address this issue. Although none were passed, the controversy over licensing PR professionals still exists.
The realization by many corporations that PR is a necessity in the business world has created a new role for PR – in the global marketplace. More than ever, PR professionals will be called upon to support world wide relations and campaigns, on issues such as prescription drugs, healthcare, and US military initiatives. An example of this is found in the rapid financial expansion of China and India. Within a few years, both could possibly be leaders in global health care. China’s economy for example is growing at an annual rate of 9 percent (the US economy growth is currently 3 percent). India’s economy is also high with an annual growth of 6 percent. In these fast growing countries, PR campaigns can be used “to map out ways to reach audiences with segmented health messages, develop strategies to communicate with patients and caregivers about disease conditions and benefits of therapies, and enhance or protect companies’ reputations.” With the rapid speed of communications, PR departments worldwide will be put in charge of maintaining both national and global communications in the years to come.
Public relations will continue to evolve as technology and the world at large continues to evolve. Corporations are currently realizing the importance of public relations within their business practices, and that importance will only increase as the field itself continues to incorporate itself into the business arena as a necessary management tool.