SAN FRANCISCO: PR is on the precipice of unprecedented importance and influence, but only if it dares to accept the challenge.
That was the message from "The Top Five Challenges in the Next 10 Years," one of many workshops on professional development at this year's PRSA conference.
"Our time is here," declared speaker Kathy Cripps, president of the Council of PR Firms. "We have to seize the moment. We have tremendous opportunities. PR needs to be seen as a part of business strategies, not just communications strategies."
But for business executives to embrace PR as a business strategy, more work needs to be done. Rich Jernstedt, CEO of Golin/Harris International, urged firms to be more involved with their clients' businesses.
"Other disciplines are not as willing to get involved," he said. "I don't see ad agencies as the enemy, as they are a bit down and out. So don't limit yourself as a communications strategist. See yourself as a business strategist."
"We must be a force in elevating corporate responsibility," asserted Deborah Radman, managing partner of KCSA Public Relations. "Creating trust is not an easy task." Part of that will entail enhancing the foundations of PR, such as "reclaiming our journalism origins with thoughtful, well-grounded writing. It's as important to PR as it is to journalism."
By applying basic journalism and persuasion skills, PR can help establish corporate integrity, she explained.
"PR is not about selling corporate decisions," said Radman. "It's about helping (corporations) arrive at those decisions correctly."
The PR industry also needs to foster more business experience among its members, so that they understand "the language CEOs and COOs speak," said Cripps.
And measurement will remain a challenge, although the panelists agreed that it will not be as elusive if resources such as funding are provided to develop more reliable measurement tools.
"PR has never been in a stronger position to get that seat at the management table," said PRSA president Joann Killeen, adding that with nearly 3,200 attendees, this year's conference was the most successful. She attributed that high attendance to the industry's recognition that PR is more valuable to management than ever.