Overheard: PR CEOs Share Vision for PR Today and Predict the Future

Last month CEOs of some of the best and most respected firms in the profession assembled for the Board of Directors meeting of the Council of PR firms. Toward the end of the meeting, we got to the best part – a “round robin” discussion of what’s on people’s minds. The group at this table is so impressive – apart from their tremendous individual success as business people and communicators, you can see a lot of wisdom, natural talent and just a heck of a lot of personality.

Here’s what emerged from the meeting:

Reflecting on 2010

  • 2010 was the year we got to hold our “head above the sand” and regain a sense of pride in our work and the possibilities that lie before us.
  • Digital PR strategies and tactics are driving incremental growth at the majority of the firms.
  • Economic turmoil of the past 24 months meant client side didn’t have enough internal resources to get things done in 2010, which drove growth in the second half of the year.

Looking ahead to 2011

  • 2011 will be a strong growth year due in part to healthcare, finance (Dodd-Frank), and Congress. Why?  Gridlock, confusion and uncertainty fuel the need for clear and strategic communications.
  • PR needs to work even more closely with procurement so that corporate purchasing managers understand the fundamentals of the services – and the value – that we provide.
  • Now that they can get out from under their desks, expect to see senior client side partners jumping to new positions in 2011.

Our major strengths

  • Clients crave creative solutions and we have lots to share.
  • How do we define ourselves? Yes, we are PR people, but we are also content creators, and business counselors with expertise in communications.
  • Out of all the “vendors” (better word: partners) providing services to marketing, HR and legal, we know our clients the best and often have the deepest and longest-standing relationships.
  • Dialogue and multi-channel marketing is our “birthright.”

Our biggest challenges

  • We must learn – and learn to excel at – one very important thing from our brethren in advertising: the ability to make “theatre” out of a presentation.
  • Diversity of talent — We must hire more people who did not grow up in PR or journalism, or liberal arts – but who are programmers, visual people, production people, project managers.
  • Rising stars in our agencies must learn business management skills as well as communications skills. (Luckily the Council has a tremendous program – the Highpoint Series – to accomplish that very goal.)
  • As a profession, PR needs a process – a method clients can buy that will reassure them that we have a proven formula that will produce the desired results.
  • Clients confuse public relations with media relations because we have never taught them to think otherwise. The time to do so is now.

Andy Polansky, incoming chair of the Council and President of Weber Shandwick, named his top four priorities: Measurement, Procurement, Digital and Talent. If anyone can make an impact on these four pillars, he can.

If your firm is not a member of the Council, why not?

To reach Abby:

Phone: 212.840.0088
Email: abby@blisspr.com
Twitter: @abbycarr
LinkedIn: Abby Carr