If I’m to look ahead, then let me start by glancing backwards a moment.
Just over a year ago, Sir Martin Sorrell gave the annual Distinguished Lecture for the Institute for Public Relations.
Sorrell is Group Chief Executive of WPP, the global marketing services business that owns the Hill & Knowlton and Burson Marsteller PR consultancy networks among others.
His lecture was called “Public Relations: The Story Behind a Remarkable Renaissance.” In this talk, he named six factors that are driving the rise of public relations. These remain valid today, though the recession has been deeper than he was predicting at the time.
Successful careers in public relations are likely to develop in the six areas identified by Sorrell. Let’s review them, and provide some tips for how to get yourself in shape to succeed.
‘First, the growth of social media, a natural territory for Public Relations.’
Social media is also a natural territory for students, so prepare to impress an employer with your knowledge of tools and techniques, and your experience of building your own reputation online. If you can’t do it for yourself, why do you think you can do it for others?
Tip: A Google search for Ron Culp shows how to dominate the search results for your name. You should try this for your own name – employers certainly will.
‘Second, the unstoppable rise of China, India and other nations.’
Employers will be looking for people with an international perspective. Have you travelled? Do you speak any languages other than English? Have you lived in other countries and cultures? What do you read?
Tip: The Economist gives a global perspective, and it’s not just about money and business.
‘Third, the need for internal communications in changing companies.’
This is a difficult area for students and graduates, who will have little direct experience of organizational communications. So think laterally: what good and bad examples of employee communications have you experienced in places you’ve worked in? What are the challenges facing PR practitioners in this area? What skills are needed to succeed?
Tip: My favorite blog about internal communications/change communications is from David Ferrabee whose experience exemplifies the international perspective mentioned in point two above.
‘Fourth, the lack of public trust in companies and government.’
Be ready for some interview questions in this area, and prepare some examples of companies and government organizations that have improved or rebuilt public trust.
Tip: This area has been tracked for several years by the Edelman Trust Barometer.
‘Fifth, the increasing ability to assess data and measure performance.’
This is about proving the value of public relations beyond counting press clippings and estimating advertising value equivalency and it’s an important prerequisite for larger budgets and greater importance being given to public relations advice.
Tip: I follow these two respected evaluation bloggers – Katie Paine and Don Bartholomew.
‘Sixth, the rising cost of television advertising.’
Surely everyone’s familiar by now with ‘The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR’ – the descriptive title of a 2002 book by branding experts Al Ries and Laura Ries.
You’ll have to do more than mimic this title in an interview. What about discussing the success of The Best Job in the World campaign for Queensland Tourism? This campaign won a PR award among others – but note that it was conceived by an Australian ad agency. Analyse that!
Tip: Look back at point one above. Social media may be a natural territory for public relations – but it’s open to other disciplines too.
Richard Bailey is a UK-based public relations educator. He blogs at www.prstudies.com