Thought Leaders Offer Advice for Future of PR

Two long-time friends received well-deserved awards at this week’s Arthur W. Page Society 31st annual conference in Philadelphia. And both delivered important messages about the future of the public relations profession.

Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm, was named to the Page Hall of Fame, while John Onoda received the Distinguished Service Award. Currently a senior consultant with FleishmanHillard, John has held chief communications positions for Charles Schwab, Visa USA, General Motors, and he has headed media relations for McDonald’s and Holiday Inns.

Richard Edelman
Richard Edelman

In his acceptance remarks, Richard said in order to move our profession to a “more mission-critical role” we should adopt a new paradigm called Communications Marketing.

“We will build from our core, enhancing corporate reputation and employee engagement into new areas such as customer service and new product development,” Richard explained. “This will require a melding of marketing and communications, grounded in data-driven insight and led with bold ideas.”

Asserting that marketing can no longer do it alone, Richard said: “The solution to every problem is not a new advertising campaign. We need real action to solve today’s complex problems, inspired by communications thinking.”

Richard cited three key elements of the Communications Marketing paradigm:

Evolve: See around the corner to predict what will happen, listen to community feedback and adapt the strategy for brands. You must have action before communication.

Promote: Grounded in our storytelling heritage, with ideas designed to start movements such as the Dove* Campaign for Real Beauty, with an emphasis on experiences that are true to life and add value to relationships.

Protect: This goes beyond crisis management. We need to hold the organization to its promises where it matters most, on issues as diverse as human rights, tax and product safety. Globalization and transparency are the game changers.

John Onoda
John Onoda

John Onoda challenged our profession to play an even bigger role in developing future leaders and engaging in important issues of the day.

Urging PR leaders to help up-and-comers in our profession, John said, “We can serve by setting aside more time for coaching and mentoring.” Noting he finds this role to be personally rewarding to him, he added, “Every once in a while we come across a person with great potential.  If we were baseball scouts, it would be criminal not to do something so that the kid with the phenomenal fastball makes it into the Big Leagues.  If we were teachers, it would be criminal not to shepherd the young prodigy towards a future where her gifts are fully realized. We owe it to our profession to be scouts and teachers, to find great talent and do what we can to elevate it.”

John also asked PR leaders to use their influence within their companies for the benefit of society.  “If we believe that power engenders responsibility, the notion applies not only to us but also to our employers.  As communications professionals we have the opportunity to present the views of all stakeholders and to make the case why their concerns should be considered.”

Read the Richard’s Hall of Fame speech and John’s Distinguished Service remarks on the Page website. The Arthur W. Page Society is a global professional organization consisting of  more than 500 chief communications officers, agency heads and academics.

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