Study: PR pros are reluctant to engage with social activists

Only 11% of PR pros plan to include activists in their initiatives this year, says a USC Annenberg Center for PR study.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

LOS ANGELES: In the age of corporate purpose, PR pros claim they are allies with social activists but seldom involve them in campaigns, according to the 2020 Global Communications Report, commissioned by the USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations.

The study surveyed 1,000-plus PR leaders and students worldwide, as well as 300 people engaged in public action and politics. 

Corporations should take public stands, 84% of respondents said, but mostly on societal issues directly related to their business. Also, they ranked diversity and inclusion and climate change as the two top issues businesses should address. But hot button topics such as immigration and gun control fell further down their list of the social challenges brands should tackle.

Though 70% of the PR professionals queried said they support activists, 60% said they rarely invite activists to participate in their initiatives.

“Look at April Reign, the founder of #OscarsSoWhite,” said Fred Cook, director of the center and Golin chairman. “The Academy has never reached out to her. Not once. So there is a reluctance inside organizations I think to engage with activists and it’s based on outdated perceptions.” 

Ironically, the study found that most PR pros who worked with activists say it was good for their brands. But even so, among all the comms people surveyed, only 11% of plan to include activists in their initiatives this year.

Those numbers may explain why just 31% of the comms pro surveyed think their organizations are ready to deal with criticism from activists.

“People are not particularly well prepared to deal with activists because they don’t engage with them often,” Cook said.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in