How PR is Changing the World

By Posted in - Counselors Academy & Public Relations on May 1st, 2014

As an attendee of PRSA‘s Counselors Academy conference for several years running now, I get to meet a lot of really wonderful PR people from around the country and some special Canadians. 🙂  Daniel Tisch, president of Argyle Communications, is certainly one of my favorites. I think it was Dan’s first Counselors Academy conference that he fell in with the bad kids and ended up crashing the prom. That’s really another story, but I’m including the photo as proof. You can ask Ken Jacobs, Martin Waxman or Tom Garrity for the details later.

Now, back to today’s story. Because Dan is quite the globe trotter and in high demand to speak internationally, it is a real treat that attendees of this year’s conference will get to hear his presentation, “How PR is Changing the World: What Your Agency Needs to Know.” Eager to learn more about his global perspective on the evolution of our industry, I conducted the following pre-conference Q&A with Dan:

Without giving too much away, how is PR changing the world?
The first decade of the twenty-first century has rewritten the rules for our clients, because we’ve seen a simultaneous concentration of economic power in corporations and a diffusion of communication power to individuals and stakeholders. Since audiences have never had more power, organizations have never had less control – and that means the most powerful organizations will be those who excel at earning attention, engagement, loyalty and trust through public relations.

Knowing that you’ve conducted and studied global research, what countries are leading the changes in our industry, and why do you think that is the case?
Thirty countries were involved in the Global Alliance’s research, and I’ve been part of events in at least 25 countries in the last four years. The global PR community is a story of amazing diversity – and yet surprising unity of purpose. My greatest takeaway is that while public relations is being practiced in so many different countries, cultures and contexts, the core challenges of professionals and agencies are amazingly similar.

I see different countries showing leadership in different fields. For example, while North Americans were the pioneers in social media, Asia now has more than four times as many social media users as we do, and the most rapid growth forecasts are from the Middle East and Africa. On corporate social investment and sustainability, I find professionals in Latin American and African countries speaking a very sophisticated language, perhaps because the social role of the corporation is different. Scandinavian countries have an exceptional level of professionalism – with Sweden and Norway having among the world’s largest professional PR associations despite small populations.

As PR agency managers, what should we be doing to prep our teams to be change agents?
The good news is the need for PR has never been greater; the bad news is that we’re entering an era of unprecedented competition from non-traditional competitors – such as ad agencies and management consultants. We need to “skill up” in many areas: for example, to enhance our employees’ business literacy; to get better at the visual and emotional side of brand-building; to avoid being stuck in the media relations “box”; to get clients to see social media as intrinsic to PR; to know more about behavioral science; and to start measuring results in ways that are more meaningful to business.

Is change synonymous with success in this day and age?
Change can bring both risk and opportunity. Success means embracing both – managing the former, and positioning ourselves to seize the latter.

Why is this an important topic to the senior practitioners attending the conference in Key West?
In North America, we can get a bit insular! I find looking at how the broader global community is conceiving of our profession’s challenges – and enunciating the role of value of public relations in the twenty-first century – is invaluable. I hope my peers will come out of it with a few new ideas on how to make the case for what we do, and a bit of a road map on the skills we need to develop in our people. Finally, I hope that as independent agencies thinking globally – while maintaining our unbeatable local expertise — we can gain an even greater edge on our multinational competitors!

Thanks to Dan for taking time to answer my questions! If you are going to the Counselors Academy conference May 4 – 6 in Key West, make sure to check out his session. I promise you’ll get a lot out of it and enjoy meeting him! If you aren’t attending, follow Dan on social media via the links in the first paragraph of this post.

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