Tuesday, August 2. 2011 from O’Dwyer’s Inside News of Public Relations & Marketing Communications
Most respondents in an industry survey think that the term “PR” will be dropped in the next decade, according to research by the International Association of Business Communicators and Ogilvy PR Australia.
The survey found that 76% see “PR” disappearing in favor of the industry calling itself “communications” pros or agencies. The shift from “PR” departments to “corporate communications” began on the client side on a large scale over the last decade, but agencies have been slower to make the move. (more)
Bound to happen. Truth and Trust and Value are too high on the lists of potential clients and readers and reactors these days to allow for the flourishing of PR practitioners who have earned the less than flattering labels of “Flacks” “Spin Doctors” and yes, “professional liars.”
In the article, a PR student goes on to say that “The PR industry will face a crisis of credibility in the coming decade.”
PR has been facing a crisis of credibility for as long as most of us have been alive. As a graduate of UCLA’s Public Relations program, I was made aware, early and often, that PR takes a bad rap on a daily basis. I also know that some of it was (and still is) deserved. PR has never been among the most easily measured disciplines…and therein lies the potential for abuse that has been fulfilled by all too many “professionals” out there.
The article also goes on to say that the “majority of respondents (60%) in the survey also said PR and advertising will be merged into hybrid agencies in the near future.”
Good move. Nobody knows what Public Relations means anyhow. Revealing family secrets? Speed Dating? Sex in the Food Court?
Good move. Advisable. But fraught with peril as well. Because if the new hybrid entity continues to perpetrate the same abuses in the name of the “new” (read: even less specific and more “weaselly”) name of “communications,” then it won’t be long before any title or job designation with the word “communications” in it will become suspect.
Then where do we go?
The article closes with a reference to “Astroturfing” – a reference that I wasn’t clued to which is another name for making up stuff just to sell products – and an earnest plea for “packaging the truth.”
Here. Here. What could be more credible than the truth?
A majority of respondents (60%) in the survey also said PR and advertising will be merged into hybrid agencies in the near future.
But the nominal shift in PR will be underlined by a tactical shift as well, according to the study. Thirty percent said that the most important measure of success for PR activity in 2021 will be influence of audience reached, compared with only 23% who cited reputational change and a paltry 2% who cited opportunities to see a message.
Graham White, a managing director for Ogilvy unit Howorth, said the time of touting products and services to gain column inches is running out. “This approach is partly driven by budgets, and because PR is not regarded as a strategic discipline,” he said. “The longer that continues, the quicker PR will lose relevance.”
The phasing out of “PR” will also be a cosmetic move, according to at least one respondent to the survey.
A PR master’s student, Nidhi Paul, offered a more dire outlook and warning for the next decade: “The PR industry will face a crisis of credibility in the coming decade. Astroturfing, creating fake news and false marketing has all reinforced the mistrust and negative image of the PR industry. This will ultimately make it harder for PR practitioners to influence public opinion in the future. While the truth may not always set you free, packaging the truth to make it palatable for the target audience is what public relations should be about.”
Ogilvy sanctioned the study to mark its 10th year in Australia.