As the line between communication sender and receiver continue to blur, and the concepts of news cycles and gatekeepers become outdated lexicons of an industry that is undergoing a major transformation, public relations professionals find themselves at a cross-roads. Let’s face it – public relations itself is having a bit of an identity crisis. Between the decline of the newspaper industry, the personalization of mass media, and the expansion of social media into every segment of the population, the image of the public relations professional of Edward Bernays and Ivy Lee has become barely recognizable.
What is the role of the public relations professional in today’s communication environment? What does the future hold?
Well, according to a recent survey by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and Booz Allen Hamilton (full disclosure – I work for Booz Allen), the future of public relations will be marked by three topics:
- Justifying return on investment (ROI)
- Fighting to stay current with the latest technologies and methodologies
- Managing the ever-expanding channels of communications
“Social media tools will continue to change and evolve – we should not get stuck on a particular tool but be flexible and put our strategy to work on the appropriate platform.”
– PRSA member and survey respondent
More than 2,000 PRSA members responded to the survey and provided their thoughts on the challenges they were facing, future trends, and those skills highest in demand now and in the future.
When asked to identify the top challenge they expect to face over the next five years, almost 60% of all respondents said that dealing with limited resources due to economic pressures would be a “great challenge.” Justifying return on investment and finding the time to engage in online social media communities were the other two top challenges identified by more than half of the respondents.
The major findings are available in the full survey report and you can download that here.
In reviewing the results of the survey, there were a few other interesting points that jumped out at me that didn’t make it into the final report:
- Almost 70% of respondents were women, matching closely the PRSA membership as a whole.
- 93% of respondents identified themselves as white or causcasian
- 29% of respondents were 32 years old or younger, the most popular age group among respondents
- Compared to more than 40% of respondents who update their website every day, less than 20% comment on, or create content for, blogs on a daily basis
- The skills identified most often by the respondents as being in highest demand over the next five years are strategic communications, social media, and crisis communications
On Monday, November 9th one of Booz Allen’s Vice President’s, Maria Darby (and one of my friends and mentors), will be briefing the results of this survey and discussing the future of communications and the public relations industry at the PRSA International Conference in San Diego,. I’ll be joining her for a panel discussion following her presentation so if you’ll be there, make sure you stop by and say hello!