PR predictions for 2003

What's in store for the coming year? Top industry voices offer their forecasts.

What's in store for the coming year? Top industry voices offer their forecasts.

Reed Byrum, president and CEO, PRSA What will be the greatest challenge for the PR industry in 2003? Dealing with the spotlight. The profession will be the focus of several issues highly impactful on our society, and we will need to be sufficiently proactive, bright, strategic and achieving to help advance or even resolve these issues. One such key focus is corporate governance. I can think of no profession better positioned to manage corporate reputations than public relations, and public relations professionals can accomplish this with intuitive communications and strategic reformation - and with solid results. An equally important issue that is arising involves institutional ethics - and this spans for-profits and not-for-profits. Candor and honesty in communications are keys to telling these stories. Again, communications professionals are well positioned to handle these issues. But the environment in which these issues exist is harsh. CEOS are plagued by bad advice from financial and legal advisors. The results of such counsel have been reticence to take action and eagerness to offer silence rather than candor. With 85 percent of the public believing CEOs are unethical and weak, it's time corporations take bold action to ensure their real stories are told. And the courts bring a weighty issue. The California Supreme Court ruling on Nike v. Kasky has chilled the First Amendment rights of institutions and their spokespersons. As a profession, we need to convince the American public the importance of institutions being unencumbered in taking part in social discourse and debate. Will PR increase its relevance to the C-suite in 2003? The public relations profession has the opportunity to increase its relevance in the C-suite, but the degree of progress rests on the individual actions of professionals. Professionals must proactively proffer strategic solutions to CEOs to articulate to key investment and society publics the real stories behind our silent corporations and executives. If corporations wish to turn themselves and the American economy around, then they must acquire a compelling voice. They can do this only through public relations. What has been established in the last two years is that attempts by non-communicators to buoy reputations in these stormy times have failed. It is time investor relations be pulled back into the fabric of corporate communications, where professionals can sensibly and sensitively dictate the proper responses to the public and to government. But, if communications professionals are not properly trained, properly proactive, properly strategic, then they will languish in a landscape of reactive tactics. That's why PRSA is making a strong effort to create proper training for our members and colleagues to ensure they will be prepared to seize the moment. What will be the big media trend of 2003? Retail advertising will rebound in 2003 - and with it, media will be more flush. I hope that will translate into more journalists who have a larger newshole. Public relations professionals and their institutions need to be prepared for these opportunities. Direct mail marketing will dramatically fall off and will lose its viability as a marketing medium because of the Web and 911. Public relations will grow as a marketing medium that helps introduce new products, so we will certainly see our profession participating in broader distribution of new product marketing dollars. PR is the primary channel of successful high tech introductions, and this achievement is finally migrating to CPG, with a lot of help by Al Ries' "The Fall of Advertising, the Rise of PR". Because of these influences and of tackling governance issues, the public relations profession, outside of high tech, should experience sound revenue growth in most sectors. "Transparency" was the defining business term of 2002. What will be the defining term for 2003? Transparency has failed to establish itself despite Congressional and federal agency actions to legislate this. Investor relations personnel are dancing around full compliance. Because of this, I believe we will continue to see regulators launch more attempts to uncover corporate secrecy. Ethics will be one of the considerations in achieving this openness. At some point, the transparency debate will become a matter of ethics. Little by little, the excuses investor personnel can employ to skirt candor will evaporate, and ethical communications with stakeholders will rule. Institutions this year will have to decide whether they will conduct themselves ethically and lawfully. And these considerations will end the gamesmanship that has been occurring between investor relations personnel and regulatory agencies. I believe the debate over ethical conduct will be quite lively. We at PRSA will help frame that debate. PRSA is fortunate to have so many well-trained professionals in ethics - and this year we will be making a special effort at the chapter level to ensure our members understand applied ethics. Click on any of the names below to see their 2003 PR predictions: Reed Byrum, president and CEO, PRSA Steve Cody, managing partner, PepperCom Andy Cunningham, CEO, Citigate Cunningham Ofield Dukes, president, Ofield Dukes & Associates Peter Gardiner, partner & chief media officer, Deutsch Inc. Harvey Greisman, VP of communications, IBM Global Services Fred Haberman, president, Haberman & Associates Andy Lark, VP, global communications & marketing, Sun Microsystems Bill Margaritis, VP of worldwide corporate communications, FedEx Helen Ostrowski, CEO, Porter Novelli Doug Pinkham, president, Public Affairs Council Harlan Teller, chief client officer and president, worldwide corporate practice, Hill & Knowlton Mark Weiner, CEO, Delahaye Medialink

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