PR Now Too Important to be Left to PR People
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
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PR Now Too Important to be Left to PR People

Paul Holmes

Hill & Knowlton released an interesting piece of research this week, suggesting that marketers were being asked to take on broader responsibilities because, as one of them put it, “CMOs are challenged with new responsibilities not traditionally part of the marketing arena and many are solely responsible for delivering successful programs beyond the marketing departments." Perhaps because the study was released by H&K and The CMO Club, the headline and lead both focused on the implications for marketers. But the implications for in-house PR people are much more worrying. According to the survey 52 percent of CMOs say they are now solely responsible for crisis and issues management, 34 percent for investor relations, 23 percent for employee communications, 66 percent for media relations, and 55 percent for blogger relations. Now, there’s a name for the job that has responsibility for all those things, and it ain’t “marketing.” So what we have here is the long-predicted situation in which companies—having had the cold water of social media suddenly splashed in their faces—are finally waking up to the importance of public relations. And many of them seem to be coming to the conclusion that their public relations people are not up to the job, which is why it is being turned over to marketers, who—despite the fact that they are learning on the job, as the H&K survey suggests—are regarded as better equipped to handle these responsibilities than their peers in PR. At the end of the day, it doesn’t much matter to me who gets to do this job—the job that I would call the chief relationship officer—as long as companies take it seriously enough to give it to the best available person. After all, I will go on writing about this stuff, and covering whoever does it, whether they come from a PR, marketing, legal, operations background. But it’s hard not to read this as an indictment of the quality of in-house public relations professionals.
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