Press Release Summary = The role of public relations (PR) to a company\'s communications programmes is recognised more and more as companies increasingly understand the importance of both corporate and brand reputations.
Press Release Body = Public Relations Industry Market Assessment 2006
The role of public relations (PR) to a company\'s communications programmes is recognised more and more as companies increasingly understand the importance of both corporate and brand reputations.
In the late 1990s, customer-relationship management (CRM) strategies that purported to `put the customer at the heart of the business\' evolved and grew. However, as the economic downturn forced companies to cut costs, customer-relations services became commoditised; companies that always realised how poor services can affect reputation are now, with the rapid increase of consumer-led online communications, comprehending just how severely reputation can be damaged, as will be demonstrated in this Market Assessment report.
This increase in consumer-led online communications - also known as `citizen journalism\' - is seen by public-relations officers (PROs) as either a great opportunity or a threat; many advocate a much greater awareness and use of the opportunities presented by online PR.
Nonetheless, many practitioners see another threat posed by the Internet: the entry into the news-distribution market of non-traditional PR agencies, such as Web-optimisation companies. Search engines play a crucial role in any online activity and it is vitally important for brands to be listed at the top of any results pages. However, search-engine optimisation (SEO) is a highly specialised field and one with which PROs working in media communications may not be familiar. By allowing SEO companies to dominate this particular communications field, there is, many perceive, a danger of disseminating the message.
The Internet does afford many opportunities for PROs and this Market Assessment devotes a chapter specifically to advances in this sector.
The PR industry is certainly very vibrant and 2005 saw growth in practically all sectors and all global markets. The industry is extremely diverse, dominated at the top by the large global consultancies, such as Hill & Knowlton, Weber Shandwick and Burson-Marsteller, but there are many more agencies (PRWeek lists the top 150 non-corporate owned consultancies in its annual league tables) operating as either full-service or specialist consultancies. In August 2005, the main industry authority, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), estimated that 8,600 practitioners were working out-of-house, in addition to an estimated 39,200 in-house PROs. The Institute predicts that these numbers will swell.
One of the drivers behind the industry growth is its increasing ability to provide discernable benefits through sophisticated measurement and evaluation techniques. This is where PR meets market research in order to examine the effects of PR campaigns on the target audience. The industry is also increasingly viewed as more professional than in the past, helped by the CIPR becoming chartered in February 2005.
However, for PR to be truly effective, it has to have clear objectives; practitioners are now making more use of the kind of planning techniques used in marketing to reach the right audience. This is especially important in these days of ever-expanding media channels and audience fragmentation.
PR support agencies - such as news-clippings agencies and media-monitoring agencies - are all extending their reach to embrace a wider range of services, with news-distribution services, for example, offered by a number of different support disciplines. News clippings remain important to the industry, even if it has moved on from merely counting the number of mentions as a measurement of success. Clients need to see the stories generated by their PROs. Traditionally, clippings agencies pay for the use of newspapers\' copyright material through the Newspaper Licensing Association (NLA). The NLA is introducing an e-clippings service that will collect content from newspapers\' production systems to make available to its licence holders online; this move is not without controversy and the CIPR is lobbying to remove what it sees as a newspaper-content monopoly by the NLA.
This, and other industry issues, are discussed in more detail in Chapter 2 - Strategic Overview - of this Market Assessment report.
In order to discern the main issues of the day from PR practitioners themselves, Key Note directly solicited their views using the ResponseSource service provided by Daryl Willcox Publishing (DWPub). The service itself is becoming increasingly popular among journalists and PROs and it elicited many replies, also reproduced in Chapter 2 - Strategic Overview - of this Market Assessment report.
Key Note also conducted primary research among leading industry practitioners to create a virtual round-table discussion on the state of the industry today. Respondents were all senior practitioners within their fields and included: the Director General of the CIPR; the Communications Director of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC); the Managing Director (MD) of Porter Novelli (one of the major PR consultancies in the UK); the Chairman of Huntsworth (a UK-based global communications group); the MD of Metrica (a leading PR-evaluation company); the MD of Immediate Future (a dynamic, independent PR company specialising in online PR); and the CIPR\'s Young Communicator of the Year, from Lewis PR. Their views are expressed in Chapter 8 - Industry Dynamics - of this Market Assessment report.
Key Note is indebted to the very many industry practitioners spoken to in the compilation of this report, all of whom were extremely generous, making available their original content and their time.