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Industry Thought Leaders

The Business Case Through Their Eyes

To help us create The Business Case for Public Relations, PRSA looked to different industry leaders for assistance in framing the overall concept, identifying tangible goals and objectives, and formulating strategies, tactics and message points. You can read some of the thoughts they shared during the process below.

PRSA also convened a blue-ribbon panel of experts on public relations measurement and evaluation, to work toward the establishment of standardized approaches to quantifying public relations' value. Additional details on this aspect of the Business Case can be found on our measurement standardization page.

Andy Cooper (photo)Andy Cooper, Co-Founder and Principal
CooperKatz & Company

“The discipline of public relations is truly right for the times. Marketers increasingly recognize that the consumer is in control. Public relations professionals are especially effective in this uncontrolled environment, as we’ve always worked through third parties. Additionally, PR is the discipline that is closest to the perspectives, needs and concerns of the CEO. We see the whole picture — all the issues that a CEO worries about, internal and external. We’re also the discipline that is most capable of integrating the other marketing disciplines, because of the breadth of our experience and the array of audiences with which we communicate.”

Mark Dvorak (photo)Mark Dvorak, Senior Vice President

"One thing that jumps out at me is the need to showcase the standards of excellence and successes in our profession. We must always be in search of opportunities to demonstrate how public relations has helped change behaviors, particularly with regard to meaningful social issues such as smoking and obesity. We need to celebrate not only how organizations have successfully implemented programs, but more importantly how our collective efforts have led to important social change.”

Matthew Harrington (photo)Matthew Harrington, President and CEO, U.S.
Edelman Worldwide

“During the recent economic crisis 'public relations' has been bandied about as a catch-all phrase for all manner of problems. Jon Stewart, by example, will reference Bernie Madoff, AIG or other institution as a 'public relations crisis' or a 'public relations nightmare.' He does not acknowledge that the roots of their problems are ethical or systemic business failures. There needs to be greater awareness that public relations can be part of a solution and an avenue to greater transparency and is not often the problem in and of itself.”

Michael Kempner (photo)Michael Kempner, President and CEO
MWW Group

“The public relations industry is an economic force. We do good things. We employ scores of people. And the services we provide — now, probably more than ever — are critical, both in terms of the value we provide and our value proposition against other marketing disciplines on a pure dollar basis. So for me, it’s more about figuring out how we build respect for ourselves and our profession, and for the value of what we do. It’s really about figuring out a way to provide tools and a campaign around why we’re worth what we’re worth, and how important we are in the marketing and communications mix, so people can walk into a client and say, ‘This is why public relations is important.’”

Mary Beth NavarroMary Beth Navarro, APR, Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications Relationship Manager

“It’s not just about pushing out information anymore. Sure, it’s about changing behaviors where you need to outside the organization, but also within the organization. And to the notion of ideas moving and information moving, as a PR professional, you’re also bringing information back into your organization, helping them interpret it and helping them figure out how they might need to change their behaviors. So we talk a lot about creating behavioral change with the right publics, but I think one of those publics is the organization that you work for.”

Dr. David Rockland (photo)Dr. David Rockland, Partner and Managing Director

“Forging industry agreement on measurability is almost mandatory. Those of us who focus on measurement have so far failed — although I think we’re very close — to gel around a series of standard metrics for how to measure public relations. Maybe we just need to tweak the vocabulary, because there are some fairly straightforward techniques we’re all starting to use and talk about. A small step like convening the research directors of the major firms and organizations and saying, ‘OK, let’s just agree to a common language as far as how to talk about measurement with all of our clients,’ would take us well down the road to eliminating the measurability myth.”

Mary Lee SachsMary Lee Sachs, Director, Worldwide Marketing Communications Practice and Chairman, Hill & Knowlton USA
Hill & Knowlton

“Over the years, public relations has received a lot of CEO endorsements, and I see them as incredibly useful, especially if you’re meeting with an organization that is expressing some uncertainty about whether or not public relations can help their particular business. But in addition to CEOs, I’d like to see the same thing from CMOs, because I think that our reputation, or even CMO’s knowledge of PR — the discipline and what it can do and how it can actually support that they have to accomplish — I think that’s pretty patchy. And if we’re going to launch a 'C-Suite initiative' to demonstrate public relations’ bottom-line relevance to corporate and organizational management, I’d even add CFOs and chief legal officers.”

Kirk Steward (photo)Kirk Stewart, Executive Vice President, Corporate Communications Practice Leader
APCO Worldwide

“We’re going to have to do something big and unexpected and surprising and disruptive if the public relations industry is going to get the kind of attitude change that we’re looking for. A variety of other efforts have been started and stopped over the past 25 or 30 years, and they haven’t been enough to really change attitudes and perceptions. Maybe it’s just a matter of getting an effort in place and sustaining it over a period of time, but I would encourage the industry to think a bit more out-of-the-box in terms of what we can do. I’d encourage us to think a little more broadly and a little bit more differently than we’ve done in the past.”

Dr. Donald Wright (photo)Dr. Donald Wright, APR, Fellow PRSA, Professor of Public Relations
Boston University

“Part of the problem with the perception of public relations is the fact that publicists are called public relations people, along with the people who are the CEOs of major agencies and senior VPs of corporate communications at the Fortune 100. Consequently, the perception of public relations is much more that of a publicist or press agent, than it is of the true counselor who’s building relationships and practicing two-way communication. Public relations professionals are concerned not just with the distribution of the message, but that the message reaches the right audiences, and that the message diffuses through them and leads to attitude, opinion or behavioral change.”