Company CEOs rate PR over advertising

Public relations professionals now lead the field in managing company reputations. That is the message from the 250 businesses surveyed by Impulse Research for PRWeek.

Public relations professionals now lead the field in managing company reputations. That is the message from the 250 businesses surveyed by Impulse Research for PRWeek.

The views of the CEOs and COOs, top managers in a range of companies from 95 different industries, gave new weight to the idea that PR is the key to company reputation, and a more effective communications tool than advertising.

Every respondent said their company uses both PR and advertising, whereas only 54% use direct mail, 51% personal visits and 27% telemarketing.

But it was on the question of reputation that PR's importance really shone through. A significant 92% of CEOs and COOs rated 'reputation' as crucial to success. And who do they choose to manage that reputation?

Only 8% turn to their advertising expert, whereas 35% turn to their PR counselor. The others turn to marketing experts (22%), management consultants, (12%) lawyers (10%) and human resource experts (8%).

One CEO told the research team: 'Successful firms are starting to realize that PR can be more effective in building and keeping a great reputation than all the ads in the world.' This was reinforced by respondents' views on the increasing importance of PR: 76% of bosses said PR was more important to their businesses now than five years ago. Only 3% said it was less important.

In fact they considered it so important that 82% said PR was a top management or board-level discipline. 'PR should be a management skill in all firms,' said a hospitality industry CEO. 'Without it we lose existing customers and inhibit the creation of new regular customers.'

PRWeek's survey supports a growing body of evidence which suggests PR is moving up the communications food chain: there is the collapse in TV viewership in favour of other media; there is Omnicom and WPP's pursuit of PR-based revenue; and a new breed of managers at companies like Proctor & Gamble have shifted emphasis onto relationships with the public and Internet marketing.

The survey did, however, issue a warning for PR professionals. At present, 85% of respondents said they spend more on advertising than on PR, with 54% claiming the discrepancy between ad-spend and PR spend would increase in the next five years.

As one PR-savvy CEO pointed out: 'PR people are doing a great job for a lot of people, but maybe they still need to PR themselves.'. (c) Haymarket PR Publications Ltd.

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