PR predictions for 2003

Mark Weiner, CEO, Delahaye Medialink

Mark Weiner, CEO, Delahaye Medialink

What will be the greatest challenge for the PR industry in 2003? According to a survey Delahaye recently conducted among senior PR practitioners, the greatest challenges facing the public relations profession in 2003 are (1) professional credibility; (2) ethics and (3) proving PR's return on investment. Items one and three are directly linked. Our profession needs to continue working through a process it's already begun, which is to legitimize itself to those who fund public relations programs by demonstrating - and generating - a positive return on their PR investment. Add to these elements the accelerating velocity of business, the accessibility and abundance of unmediated media, and an increasingly troubled economy for media and marketing, and the challenges for the New Year become even more complex. Will PR increase its relevance to the C-suite in 2003? Contributing to PR's quest for relevancy is newfound C-suite respect for corporate reputation, a traditional domain of PR. As "Cs" now know all too well, the penalties for poor corporate image have never been more severe as former C-suite occupants are being tailored for new orange jumpsuits. Public Relations will increase its relevance to the C-suite in 2003 in direct proportion to its ability to effectively demonstrate and generate a positive return on investment. For some organizations, ROI means products sold and revenues generated. For others, it may be "crises averted" or simply delivering more for less (and with less). In summary, PR will find greater relevance if it meets its increased C-suite visibility with greater accountability. The stakes have never been higher. What will be the big media trend of 2003? The big media trends will be driven by "media economics." The media environment for 2003 will be one of churn and fragmentation. New editorial formats will be launched but business realities will force these media to deliver a profit or vanish...and many will. Compounding the media's "stress for success" are new technologies like Tivo and Replay, which are eroding the critical advertising revenue stream. This media trend could present opportunities for PR as mass-market advertisers begin to divert resources to more "involving" forms of marketing communications, like PR, which aren't so easily "zapped." These trends foster the growing "haziness" between what is "public relations" and what is "editorial" as media economics drive journalists to their PR sources for a quick and inexpensive supply of content. To capitalize, professional communicators must practice more scientific media targeting. Rather than "top 50 markets," "coffee table logic" or other hackneyed media strategies, 2003 will see more PR people targeting media based on what the target audience's self-reported preferences for reading, watching and listening. What's more, media relations professionals must know journalists' preferences for receiving release materials, as well as their deadlines and other requirements. Once journalists are supplied with a stream of very niche content tailored to their needs and the needs of their highly targeted audiences, public relations results should meet with explosive growth. "Transparency" was the defining business term of 2002. What will be the defining term for 2003? Just as "transparency" is a concept that would have been recognized by Edward Bernays many years ago, the defining term for 2003 will be a familiar one: "return on investment." At the same time that other areas of organizational life have come under the microscope for improved quality, efficiency and ROI, so too should CEOs expect to see a greater alignment of public relations and business goals. Outdated arguments about the inability to measure PR will fall by the wayside as organizations demand, and PR pros provide, hard data to demonstrate the extent to which PR can deliver a solid return. This will go far beyond hits and impressions as CEOs demand to know, for example, how many new customers can be attributed to PR. The ROI equation must also show that resources are spent wisely; in ways that reduce waste, increase efficiency, productivity and quality while lowering the organization's overall investment. 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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