HOW BIG IS PUBLIC RELATIONS (AND WHY DOES IT MATTER)?
Foreword: on July 7 the paper below was presented to participants at Bled symposium and had been preceded by some critical/positive comments by scholars, professionals, educators and friends who had been invited to peruse it. Following the presentation and the discussion that emerged the two authors have decided to post all comments received sofar and to warmly invite visitors to share, comment, criticise in order to take this work one step forward: a second edition of the paper… and then a third…and then a fourth and so on. Some comments received cover specific issues along the text; others are general and a few actually cover the full paper.
HOW BIG IS PUBLIC RELATIONS
(AND WHY DOES IT MATTER)?
Draft in progress July 11- 2018
Toni Muzi Falconi, Senior Counsel, Methodos, Italy
Frank Ovaitt, CEO Emeritus, Institute for Public Relations, USA
Arguing the existence of a public relations profession………4
Testing the methodology on three sample countries ……….9
Demonstrating the methodology worldwide …………………… 11
But why does all this matter? …………………………………………. 13
The authors are aware that algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) are automating both traditional and emerging public relations activities and functions. We see this happening every day, yet we do not know the speed and overall thrust of such automation process. In any case, the authors main interest here is proposing a methodology to estimate the 'economic-and-beyond' impact of public relations. We believe this impact may be enhanced by AI tools, but frankly we don’t know.
Nevertheless, due also in part to this automation process, the authors would argue that the quality of any organization’s relationships with its stakeholder publics is more and more becoming its essential purpose. As the quality of these relationships improves, so does the organization’s reason to exist. It Is not the purpose of this paper to present evidence to support this belief, but It Is an important underlying assumption
This development is in great part due to the Global Alliance’s Melbourne Mandate working group and its finally approved document of 2013 as well as to the thoughts and elaborations of Dr. Mervyn King and to the increasingly international approval in major markets of many countries of the International Integrated Reporting Council's conceptualization of relationship capital.
The authors also believe that public relations is a professional practice which, based on a growing and increasingly dynamic body of knowledge and framework of capabilities, is consciously and measurably developing and improving the quality of these relationships, so that objectives are more quickly achieved by active, constructive and reciprocal listening, dialog, interaction and monitoring in analog and digital spaces.
With this new paper, we are updating a first edition written back in 2005 and published by the Institute for Public Relations. It argued that the professional identity of public relators is not just a supporting channel for advertising and marketing, nor simply another management function of the staff variety. Rather, it is central to how we ourselves -- as professionals, practitioners, managers, scholars, educators and students -- understand what we do, evaluate our impact on society at large and, most importantly, argue and promote these approaches with our key stakeholders.
Since the original paper, 13 years have passed. The profession has significantly modified its processes as the result of factors such as the unexpected deceleration of globalization, the return of nation-state, populism, and an increasingly disruptive digital mutation. These factors along with the migration tsunami, climate concerns and a growing disparity of quality of life have created, as the title of this XXV Bledcom symposium purposely states,
“A World in Crisis: The Role of Public Relations.”
ARGUING THE EXISTENCE OF A PUBLIC RELATIONS PROFESSION
1. Some believe we no longer need to fight for our Identity as a profession. The co-authors of this paper believe this is wishful thinking Whether or not you agree, here are our thoughts on the subject as It relates to this paper.
A profession like accounting, legal or medic supplies objective counsel and service to others, in exchange for direct compensation. This implies full-time occupation, specialised training, university degrees, local, national and international associations as well as codes of professional ethics and, at least in some countries, licensing requirements.
Putting an economic value on what we do and being evaluated through a process similar to what is used for other professions is possibly a critical step toward being perceived in the same light.
So far, and with our mostly passive acceptance, efforts in qualitative evaluation and quantitative measurement of our impact have analyzed public relations as if it was a service industry where the demand, often believed to be mostly from the private sector, meets the offer of services provided by agencies, consultancies, solo operators and, of course, managers operating from inside institutions and organizations. Very little, if any, attention has been focused on the impact of public relations in its entirety – which includes public relations activities in all sectors of society: private sector yes, but also the public and social sectors (NGOs, charities, foundations…).
In many countries of the world (Germany, Italy, Brasil, Nigeria, Spain, Portugal..) the public sector alone accounts for more than 50% of the number of estimated active public relations operators; while the social sector, albeit the smallest, has been experiencing the fastest growth for some time.
2. Another much more recent and at least equally relevant issue pertaining to the impact of public relations is that many professionals and scholars, also inspired by the works of thinkers like Robert Putnam related to social capital, have been actively contributing to organizations like the IIRC related to its conception of relational capital, the development of the integrated reporting and thinking and a global movement spurred also by thinkers like Mervin Kingas well as to Hon and Grunig’s admirable work on evaluating the quality of relationships on the basis of the four indicators of trust, satisfaction, commitment and control mutuality in the relationship, by interested parties .. to the point that we have come to believe that communication is certainly a very important tool, but that the quality of relationships with key stakeholder groups is, in fact, any organization’s ultimate objective.