Plank Center Study Reveals a Changing PR Industry

We would tell you that the world is changing in every conceivable way, but that’s about as insightful as revealing the color of the sky. Still, the largest study to date conducted by the University of Alabama’s Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations confirms that we work in an industry undergoing rapid and dramatic shifts along demographic and technological lines.

The largest factor transforming contemporary public relations practices is, of course, an increase in the availability of digital networking tools and real-time data. The survey, introduced at a PR summit in Chicago, found present-day PR firms scrambling to master the art of information and use it to their benefit by developing methods to more precisely measure the impact and value of their services for clients.

Again, this is hardly news to anyone working in PR today–but the survey, which involved more than 4,500 leaders across 23 nations, included some other significant conclusions:

  • The industry is “now as much as 70 percent female”, with an increasing number of experienced women ascending to positions of leadership within top organizations.
  • The average age of PR professionals is decreasing–and these upcoming generations value issues of social responsibility, transparency and diversity far more than their predecessors.
  • The younger members of the PR world are largely critical of their elders’ performances–and they’re ready to guide the industry into the future while improving its image in the eyes of the public.
  • Senior leaders believe that the industry’s biggest challenges lie in “managing the volume and velocity of information” and responding to the rapid development of real-time crises.
  • Measuring the outcomes and effects of social media campaigns was unsurprisingly listed as one of the most important issues facing the PR field as its members learn to better wield the tools of the digital revolution.

Most participants agreed on the industry’s two most important elements moving forward:

  • Measurement/data analysis and business skills
  • “Soft skills”, or the empathy, self-awareness and personal insight required to successfully manage the changes and conflicts that lead clients to hire PR firms in the first place

There’s quite a bit more; the study’s “Key Themes and Findings” report is well worth a glance. We’d love to get your thoughts.

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