Archive for May 23rd, 2008

USC Annenberg Public Relations Generally Accepted Practices Study

May 23, 2008

Professor Jerry Swirling, Director of Public Relations Studies and the Strategic Public Relations Center at the USC Annenberg School for Communication alerted me to the new USC Annenberg PR study out.

Here are the highlights:
1.                  Maintain a higher than average ratio of PR budget to gross revenue (GAP PR/GR Ratio).
2.                  Report directly and exclusively to the C-Suite.
3.                  Optimize the C-Suite’s understanding of PR’s current and potential contributions to the success of the organization as a whole.
4.                  Establish an effective social responsibility strategy for your organization.
5.                  Establish an effective digital-media strategy for your organization.
6.                  Establish an effective issues-management strategy for your organization.
7.                  Optimize integration and coordination of PR/Communications, both within the PR/Communications function, and with other organizational functions.
8.                  Encourage highly ethical practices across the organization, beginning with communication.
9.                  Encourage the organization-wide adoption of a long-term strategic point of view, beginning with communication.
10.              Encourage the organization-wide adoption of a proactive mindset, beginning with communication.
11.              Encourage the organization-wide adoption of a flexible mindset, beginning with communication.
12.              Optimize the integration of PR and reputational considerations into top-level organizational strategies.
13.              Measurably contribute to organizational success.

I’ll admit, I looked at the first item and rolled my eyes–here are PR people trying to figure out how to get more PR budgets. But then I started digging into the research a little more and it is pretty fascinating. One of the key differences between big companies and smaller companies is whether or not the PR or Communication head reports to the C-suite. When they do, budgets are bigger–that makes sense of course. But there is evidence that there is considerable growth in C-Suite direct reporting versus previous years.

I was wondering why that is. Maybe I’ll have to ask Prof Swerling for his perspective on that. My own bias suggests that CEOs have witnessed the increased frequency of CEOs losing their jobs primarily over reputation issues. And they have seen how the reputation and view of the virtue and character of the CEO is related to the company or organization’s reputation. There is little doubt, as much as those of us in crisis communication might whine about it, there has been tremendous growth in C-level awareness of the need for crisis preparedness and reputation management. I suspect that an increasing number of CEOs, simply by watching the news at night, have decided they want a top-notch communication professional by their side when it really hits the fan.

Anyway, lots of statistics here for certain, and I imagine it is true here what they say about numbers in general–twist them hard enough and you can get them to say anything you want. But this is an invaluable study for those in PR to understand how the profession is viewed, how it is changing, and how to make it work more effectively in your organization.