Six years of coverage reveals a significantly different industry

Last month marked my sixth anniversary at PRWeek. It's hard to believe that much time has passed.

Last month marked my sixth anniversary at PRWeek. It's hard to believe that much time has passed. Sometimes it seems like just yesterday that I started as a reporter covering the media and services beat, having no clue what an SMT, VNR, or ANR was or what "measurement" actually meant. (I seriously had the image of a ruler in my head when my editors told me that would be part of my beat.) Though it seems like a short time, once I think about the things that have occurred in those six years - at PRWeek, in the media landscape, and in the PR industry - I realize that it has been a very long time.

Six years ago, the word "blog" was just creeping into our daily vocabulary; the biggest story was the coming game-changer Second Life (hey, we all make mistakes), and Mark Zuckerberg was still a college student who had invented "The Facebook," something my younger sister told me about because she used it at college.

This conjures up memories, but of more import, it illustrates how the PR pro's job has gotten much harder over the past six years, the past three especially, as platforms such as Twitter and Foursquare have gained traction, corporate reputation is top of mind, and PR is battling digital, ad, and direct agencies for social media dominance.

Clearly challenges lie in all facets of PR - from agencies and corporations to nonprofits and education settings. Yet, it is the job of in-house corporate communicators that has probably been affected most. They face internal pressures to measure the effectiveness and ROI for PR activity, more involvement from procurement than ever before, and a struggling economy that has forced everyone to do more with less.

So, quite fittingly, this year we bring back the Corporate Survey (p. 31), which had run from 2003 to 2006. In discontinuing it in 2007, we felt it had simply run its course and, year after year, revealed the same facts. But that was before the recession, the reputation-crushing incidents involving BP, Toyota, and Goldman Sachs, and the phenomenon that is now social media had truly taken hold.

So, this year we partnered with Hill & Knowlton to determine precisely how the role of corporate communicators has changed - and the findings are quite interesting. Though it surveys only a segment of our large and varied readership, it provides relevant insight for our entire audience. Hopefully you find some valuable information in the piece. I look forward to your feedback.

Erica Iacono is the executive editor of PRWeek. She can be contacted at erica.iacono@prweek.com.

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