PR Council president Kathy Cripps, answering those who believe the PR industry needs a new name, says Council research indicates otherwise.
Said Cripps: “Whether a firm is helping clients to create dialogue in social communities, engendering trust with their audiences, or moving people to action, it’s PR, and it’s never been more relevant.
“The research conducted for the PR Council’s repositioning helped solidify this opinion: in interviews with CCOs, CMOs, we heard that PR/public relations is a differentiator.
“In a highly competitive marketplace, with the lines blurring, a differentiator is not something to walk away from. In addition, in a recent Council member survey, 100% of respondents believe their work is `guided by the principles of public relations.’ As the trade association, we want to build on our heritage which means putting PR front and center.”
Bates Lauds PRC’s Stand
Don Bates, senior consultant and business and writing instructor, New York University’s School of Professional Studies, said he is “delighted that the Council stuck with PR.”
Said Bates: “Let the evolution everyone is talking about take place in a larger, not narrower, construct. The Council can deal with new critical practice areas such as social media, marketing and digital communication in specialty sections or some other operational setup.
“Creating a new name is not going to change the reality of what goes on in PR, sales promotion, social media outreach, crisis communication, reputation management, etc., unless the idea is to destroy PR altogether and subsume the promotional elements under other, more insular management functions.
“A note to those who would kill PR: be careful what you wish for. You could end up extinct. Better to embrace all that is happening under the umbrella we know and understand, making social media a major focus of what we do.”
Use of “PR” Declines
Use of the term “PR” is declining in various quarters. Only eight of the current 103 Council members use it in their names, down from 13 a year ago.
Only six of the firms in the O’Dwyer “Top 50” use it and none in the top 15.
Only 160 or 11% of the 1,450 registrants at the 2014 conference of the PR Society in Washington, D.C. Oct. 11-14 used “PR” as part of their titles.
Using titles with “communications” somewhere in them were 386 or 26% of the registrants. The first 447 titles in 2014 included 79 with “communications” (17%) and only 28 with “PR” (6%).
The first 430 names on the 2010 list included 74 with “communications” and 55 with “PR.” There was a significant drop in use of PR from 2010 to 2014.
The Society years ago stopped distributing the 25-30 page printed list of registrants to attendees. They need such a printed list so they can peruse it at leisure during their 3-4 days at the conference, looking for friends and possible new friends. The Society doesn’t mind printing and mailing 32,000 copies of 20 or 24-page Tactics each month.
Asked about this, a Society staffer said the printed registration list is outdated soon as it comes off the press. That’s the same argument the Society uses as justification for not having a printed directory of members. However, even if 1% of the listings are wrong, 99% are right.
Critics Press for Name Change
Some critics, including lawyer/PR professor Michael Parkinson, say there is no justification for calling PR a profession since it lacks government recognition or a disciplinary process.
Others say “PR” is too identified with opinion manipulation to survive. The industry’s trade associations promise transparency, openness, fairness in dealing with the public and media, and devotion to the highest ethical principles.
However, the PR Society since 2005 has provided the national list of Assembly delegates only to the delegates themselves. Although the Society once listed all 50+ staffers by name, duties and contact points, the website now lists only eight names. The single list of 110 chapter presidents was removed four years ago. Such a list can only be compiled only by going from chapter-to-chapter, a daunting task for any chapter president. This impedes interaction among and with the chapter presidents.
Transcripts and audiotapes of the Assembly have not been available since 2004. The printed members’ directory, one of the top benefits of membership, was discontinued after the 2005 edition without any discussion in the Assembly. Leaders and staff refuse to discuss a PDF version.
Critics Ready to Bury “PR”
Robert Phillips, longtime former U.K. Edelman executive, told of CPR and PRSA sticking with “PR,” said the organizations “are living in the past—like dinosaurs looking into the mirror and congratulating themselves on being beautiful dinosaurs.”
Phillips, who is authoring, “Trust Me, PR Is Dead,” says it is time for senior practitioners to face reality, as the Australians have done (referring to the essay by the Centre for Corporate PA, Melbourne, titled “PR Is Dead”).
“They are mostly too wound up with their own self-preservation,” says Phillips. “That’s why they are all sleepwalking over a cliff. They do not have the courage to see that there is another way.” His proposal is for “Public Leadership, accountable via Public Value.”