Forty-five per cent of companies in the UK top 1,000 believe that
PR will become more strategically important than advertising by the year
2000, with a further 38 per cent believing it will have the same
Slightly more believe it will be more important than direct marketing as
At face value this sounds highly encouraging, and the Metrica/Portfolio
survey goes on to reveal that PR budgets are also expected to increase
significantly over the same period.
But the results get two cheers only. This is partly because the survey
respondents were in-house PR managers, whose view of the importance of
PR within their organisations may be coloured by their own hopes. More
importantly, while the findings say something about the pecking order of
various marketing disciplines, they tell us little about the importance
of PR in the boardroom.
At a strategic level, reputation is what matters. Companies are
recognising that reputation is a business asset. But the mechanics of
managing it - whether through advertising, PR, lobbying or direct
marketing - is of secondary importance.
Clearly communications needs a champion at the highest level. And, as BA
chairman Sir Colin Marshall told the recent Hard Commercial Edge of PR
conference, it is the chief executive who should ultimately be the brand
manager for the company. But he or she needs expert advice.
The pressing concern for the PR business is therefore who takes charge
of that process - the PR or corporate affairs director, the marketing
director, or even the human resources director?
For PR people to take up that challenge they will first have to break
out of the mindset which sees PR as a downstream function, instead of a
core management discipline.