Tackling the lousy reputation of public relations

Gregory Galant has written an excellent article for Fortune on why the public relations industry gets such a bad rap.

He cites a list of woe: public relations practitioners have traditionally measured outputs rather than outcomes; the industry has a poor reputation with the media, traditionally its primary audience; it isn’t scalable; and it has limited influence over the reputation of an organisation.

You’d struggle to mount a credible case for the defence against any of these issues.

By any metric, crucially financial, our colleagues in the advertising industry have a better standing. Galant reels off the data. It makes for a depressing read.

The situation may be set to change over the coming dedade. Social media and the fragmentation of media across digital platforms provide the means for the public relations industry to reinvent itself.

It’s a fact that Galant recognises.

Every digital interaction leaves a data point making planning a science. Platforms and tools are enabling campaigns to be scaled. Measurement is being tackled through initiatives such as AMEC’s Valid Metrics and Philip Sheldrake’s Balance Scorecard.

Ultimately the shift to social business, placing the customer at the heart of all areas of a business that provides the biggest opportunity for public relations. It returns the industry to its original premise of audience engagement.

Whether the public relations industry will grasp the opportunity is another thing entirely of course.

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.

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