The Public Relations Professional in 2015

Publication Date: 2009

Source: SO21 Public Relations Industry Information and ResearchSO11 Research
Product Code: 6I-2011PRPRO
Organization/Author/Firm: Mary Deming Barber, APR, Fellow PRSA / George Couch, APR / Christina Darnowski / Terri Lynn Johnson, ABC, APR / Dean Kazoleas, Ph.D. / Dean Kruckeberg, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA / Joyce Lofstrom, MS, APR / Jim Streed, MS, APR / Joe Trahan, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA / Susan Walton, MA, APR / Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
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In 2009, when the role of the PRSA Leadership Assembly transitioned from that of a strictly governance group into a thought leadership group, several concurrent discussions about the future of public relations were initiated. These discussions were based on a profound recognition that communications platforms are rapidly changing and the broad conviction that PRSA needed more information from its members to better understand these changes and their implications for public relations professional practice.

PRSA’s leadership saw tremendous value in involving these key stakeholders in these discussions. In addition to their vested interest in the subject matter, these stakeholders were in a unique position to provide diverse viewpoints based on their broad professional experience—diversity of both practice area (e.g., risk communications, crisis communications, social media, measurement and evaluation) and industry experience (e.g., corporate, agency, not-for-profit, government and education).

In the course of this information-gathering process, Chapters, Districts, Sections and individual members from across the country responded enthusiastically and provided valuable insights as to how they perceive the changing landscape of public relations.

Pre-Assembly Surveys

The decision was made to distribute a survey to capture the information from stakeholders and discuss the findings during the 2010 PRSA Leadership Assembly, during which members could help assess where public relations professional practice is headed. Delegates to the Leadership Assembly were assigned to distribute the survey to their constituents prior to the Assembly and submit a report summarizing their constituents’ responses. The feedback from the surveys then provided information for the Leadership Assembly discussion.

The surveys administered to Assembly delegates before the Assembly meeting — and the ensuing discussions — revolved around four questions:

  1. What role will public relations professionals play in 2015? How is this different from their role today?
  2. What other knowledge, skills and abilities are necessary for success in the future?
  3. Moving toward 2015, how will knowledge, skills and abilities be impacted by:
    1. Social media?
    2. Integrated marketing communications?
    3. Globalization?
    4. Disintegration of traditional media?
    5. Demand for results — focus on measurement and evaluation?
    6. Other?
  4. How will knowledge, skills and abilities differ by:
    1. Career stage?
    2. Industry?
    3. Organizational setting?
    4. Other?

Prior to the Assembly, the survey responses were gathered and analyzed and were then presented to Assembly delegates at the Assembly meeting. The purposes of introducing that discussion were to:

  • Help delegates (and ultimately, the general PRSA membership) understand the perceived trends and changes in our profession and how these will shape the future of public relations.
  • Utilize the thoughts and ideas of our Chapters and Sections as well as the strategic thinking of the Assembly delegates to better prepare public relations practitioners for their future roles.

Leadership Assembly Discussion and Follow-Up Survey

A significant amount of time was spent at the 2010 Assembly discussing the public relations professional of 2015 — what roles practitioners will fill, what opportunities they will have within the next five years and how our profession can best prepare for both new roles and new opportunities.

An additional survey was administered during the first quarter of 2011 to enable Assembly Delegates to offer additional ideas in the context of the Assembly discussion. The survey presented the general concepts that had been identified during the 2010 Assembly and gave members an opportunity to confirm that the analysis is on track.

Next Steps

In addition to informing the content of this White Paper, the data from the surveys and discussions and the conclusions reached through the discussion and analysis that took place at the Assembly will serve two other important purposes:

  1. Inform the content of future PRSA professional development programs and offerings.
  2. Provide information for use in development of higher education curricula (adding to the body of information found in the 2006 report by the Commission on Public Relations Education, The Professional Bond).

Click the “View PDF” link to open the full report.