The PR industry is looking at a bigger playing field in ’06

Sponsored by the Council of PR firms

Sponsored by the Council of PR firms

There is a good deal of optimism among PR firms these days as business in 2005 continued its upward trajectory. The Council's 2005 Q4 "quick survey" found that 83% of member firms made strong gains in revenue in 2005 (by an average of 12%), and the majority experienced growth in profitability.

While bottom-line numbers have improved, future prosperity may depend on the profession's ability to prove that it is a vital part of the ever-changing marketing mix in an increasingly global marketplace.

As consumers and other stakeholders tune out messages unimportant to them, various marketing disciplines will vie for control of new communications channels. PR is right in the middle of this shift, and is well-positioned to adapt to new marketing environments as they emerge. But are we nimble and confident enough to take the lead?

Last month, we asked our members: "What are the top issues facing PR over the next three years?"

The top four answers reflect the importance of promoting the value of PR and positioning our industry for success in the 21st century:

1. Demonstrating the value of PR
2. Developing talent
3. Innovation
4. Industry growth.

Based on the responses we received on this survey and others, many of our members realize that their greatest future competition might not be from other PR firms, but from ad agencies, integrated marketing firms, and traditional and non-traditional consulting firms. The current era represents a great opportunity for PR to stake a claim on the future – because competition often produces great results.

2006 Council Activities

Business schools. The Council formed a task force comprised of business-school professors and senior agency managers to find ways of closing the gulf that exists between PR and the MBA students who might some day control the marketing/PR spend for your company or client, or make up part of the C-suite. The Council recently commissioned research that showed that only 34% of MBA programs offer students PR coursework. (That number is up from 16% in 2001.) We need to increase this percentage so the clients of tomorrow understand the evolving and critical role of communications and the influence it has in the public and private sectors.

International business. You don't have to be Thomas Friedman to understand that our industry, like most, is being influenced by developments and forces outside our borders. As Friedman illustrated in The World is Flat, the traditional way of doing business is a thing of the past and competition in virtually all industries is now global. To help members experience the booming market on the other side of the world, we are offering a week-long trip to China to observe the PR industry and opportunities that exist in Beijing and Shanghai.

On that same theme, the Client Advisory Committee will convene in March to discuss opportunities and challenges related to another emerging powerhouse in the East – India.

Measuring the Impact of PR

To further expand the reach of our profession and solidify our relationship with the C-suite, we need to continue to invest in the tools and methods that can effectively measure PR campaigns' success. The Council published the first in a series of measurement booklets in 2005, Measuring the Impact of Public Relations on Sales. The Client Advisory Committee is discussing follow-up topics to sales, such as corporate reputation and internal communications.

Kathy Cripps is president of the Council of Public Relations Firms.

The Council is dedicated to strengthening the recognition and role of public relations firms in corporate strategy, business performance, and social education, serving as an authoritative source of information and expert comment and helping set standards for the PR industry. For more information about the Council of Public Relations Firms, call 1-877-PRFIRMS or visit our website at www. prfirms.org.

This column is contributed and paid for by the Council of PR Firms.

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