The PR industry must adapt and model itself for a new social order

Our CEO Guy Woodcock was part of the PRCA Future of PR project and presented the findings of the workstream he chaired at the PRCA National Conference. We were asked to summarise these findings for the PRCA blog. Below you can find the article that went online.

As part of the PRCA project “The Future of the PR Industry” the Social Factors Workstream chaired by Montpellier CEO Guy Woodcock sought to identify how recent social trends and developments are affecting the profession.

The PR industry has always been and will continue to be impacted by trends in society, take for example the enormous impact social media is having on the PR practice and on our personal lives as well.

Understanding these trends and how they affect the structure, style and work flow of organisations, and, most importantly, reflecting them in our services as PR professionals for clients, is the only way forward for our industry. As Charles Darwin once said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”, and this holds true for communications professionals and the industry in general.

During the workstream our group identified five emerging issues that PR must consider to adapt and model itself for a new social order:

1. The ascent of the personal brand

Over the last two decades there has been a rise in the importance of the personal brand and the development of ‘portfolio career’ as people have been moving between roles and even professions more frequently. They are also actively managing their own reputation and, though remuneration remains key, employees seek opportunities to build their personal brand and ‘value’.

As a recent article on the Wall Street Journal explores, more and more professionals from any industry are increasingly putting more effort into building their own work-based brand using social media, thereby calling them ‘co-branded employees’. Making sure their activities complement, but don’t damage the corporate brand and culture and effectively encouraging and nurturing employees to become brand ambassadors is becoming a major challenge for employers.

2. Always on everywhere

Due to increasing efficiency, compatibility and the declining cost of technology, we are no longer constrained by time or location of work. The work/leisure boundaries are progressively blurring as we can now work as effectively at home as in the office. However, being ‘always available’ can lead to diminished time and space to develop quality responses and thereby harder teamwork collaboration and output.

3. A flat world economy

The current economic situation may stay around long enough to reshape client thinking for decades to come. This can lead to organisations taking emergency ‘austerity’ measures in the need for more flexible solutions to their PR requirements; for example choosing an ‘ad-hoc’ PR knowledge alternative or a ‘virtual agency’ – a trend that can no longer be ignored with the rise of social media and the Internet.

4. ‘C-Suite’ scrutiny, ethics and transparency

Corporate mis-governance has radically changed attitudes; society is increasingly burgeoning interest in the organisational behaviour, insisting on greater accountability, ethics and transparency. Therefore, there will be an ever greater requirement for PROs to serve as ‘reputational professionals’ at the heart of organisations to drive and ensure learning and corporate best practice. Robust PR counsel is thereby heeded at boardroom level and demands leadership and strength of character.

5. Less deference and more reference

People today have many sources of advice and recommendation available to them. The Internet and social media have allowed consumers to challenge and validate brand’s messages and assertions before making a purchase. Clients, on the other hand, demand a better understanding of their audience and ability to reach them with a message that is welcomed, relevant and authentic. For PR this means professionals have to well understand this complexity and effectively manage it by finding compelling messages that unite audiences, but also choosing the right channels among the pool of options that we now have.

The PR employer of the future is required to ‘lead’ but also to ‘facilitate’ rather than to rule. Constant collaboration and training in the office, combined with recognising and mixing different people’s skills as well as turning employees into ambassadors is the way of the corporate brand to adapt and go social.

To learn more about the PRCA “The Future of the PR Industry” project, please click here.

To view and comment on the Social Factors Workstream chaired by Guy Woodcock, please click here.

Originally posted on the PRCA blog.


One thought on “The PR industry must adapt and model itself for a new social order

  1. Pingback: Three Blogs You Should Be Reading About | Cate the Great

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