Public Relations Tactics

The future of the profession: What lies ahead?

July 1, 2010

By William M. Murray, CAE
President and COO, PRSA

I recently received a call from a PRSA member in Texas, a mid-career professional who is taking stock of her profession and her career. She’s been doing research — reading some great books, studying for her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) Examination and talking to others in the profession. The key question she is wrestling with as she charts her own direction is “Where is the PR profession going?”

These days, this question is on the minds of many of our members. On the positive side, there is evidence that organizations are moving away from advertising and shifting resources into public relations. New social media tools offer a greater ability to track and monitor PR activity, providing a better basis for assessing impact.  And disciplines like reputation management, corporate social responsibility and crisis management are more visible than ever before.
But clearly, there are challenges. We’ve heard from many of our members that disciplines are spilling into each other as marketing, advertising and PR professionals compete to control communications. Technology can help but can also mislead — there are plenty of products backed by claims to suggest that PR professionals are superfluous. There is still a struggle for many PR professionals to convince management to embrace a strategic approach to communications, moving beyond immediate, tactical concerns.

While these trends may be obvious, the meaning and impact of the ongoing developments is less clear.  That’s why we are asking you to join a conversation about the future of the profession.  Last year, PRSA adopted a new set of bylaws, and one of the changes provided a new role for the Assembly — it is now called the Leadership Assembly and is charged with the task of providing guidance and advice on issues “of concern to the profession.”

From feedback that we’ve received through our surveys, focus groups, letters, e-mails and comments on our blog posts, many of our members are wondering about the future of the profession — just like our colleague in Texas.  As a result, we’ve proposed that the Assembly take up this very question this year in its new leadership role.

This is more than a theoretical question.  A sense of the profession’s future will influence our members’ career choices and educational paths, and will shape how PR professionals position themselves in their own organizations.  At PRSA, knowing how our members feel about the future of the profession will influence the courses that we offer, the Accreditation process, the research that we support and the events that we manage — activities that we designed to help you be more effective today and in the future.

As the Assembly prepares for its annual meeting in October to reflect on this issue, it has been asked to add its input to the research and other materials on this topic by answering a few questions:

  • What role will PR professionals play in 2015? How is this different from their role today?
  • What additional knowledge, skills and abilities are necessary for success?
  • How will knowledge, skills and abilities be impacted by everything from social media to globalization?

You have a variety of ways to make your voice heard.  Your Assembly Delegates — representing your Chapter, District, Section or other community — are participating in conference calls and eGroup discussions to shape the conversation, and we invite you to join the conversation too by e-mailing  This is your Assembly, so if there is another topic that you think the Assembly should discuss, then please let us know.

Our colleague from Texas will undoubtedly find her course. She’s done her homework and is asking all of the right questions.  We’re all heading into the future together, and through our community, we can find the best answers to what lies ahead.


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