An industry with constant creative challenge

Updated on: Apr 06, 2011
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One of the reasons why the PR industry attracts many people is that it is fast-moving and intellectually stimulating and no two days are ever the same, writes Keith Butterick in Introducing Public Relations: Theory and practice ( It can also be a pressurised working environment, which might not be attractive to some but for others this will prove a key driver, he adds.

Looking at the PR industry, which is growing and expanding into new sectors, the author notices that it is also becoming a more fragmented and diverse industry. While that might be frustrating for those who want to tie it down with labels and definitions, for those working in it, the variety and dynamism provide a constant creative challenge, he observes.

Reminding that PR is a practice that is dependent on the delivery channels, Butterick instructs that as these channels change, so will the industry and definitions. “Perhaps, the time is not far off when it will be no longer possible or appropriate to speak of one ‘PR industry': on continental Europe, for example, it is more appropriate to speak of Communication Management.”

Employment implications

In the UK and the US, the structural changes the industry faces will have employment implications, the author foresees. “It is likely, for instance, that the traditional skills, such as a background in journalism, will no longer be as important. This will open up more opportunities for graduates from PR courses as they are being taught the practical and theoretical skills a maturing industry needs.”

And to PR practitioners, the author's advice is to hone a wider range of skills such as planning and building a strategy, undertaking research, and introducing a proper evaluation of campaigns.

Discomforting reputation

In a section on ‘industry challenges and opportunities,' there is a candid acknowledgement of the discomforting reputation the industry faces. “PR has been demonised and blamed for everything from lowering journalism standards to contributing to the decline of Democracy. The shortest definition of all: ‘Public Relations = spin' is delivered with a dismissive sneer and has become a sort of shorthand for deceit and subterfuge,” the author rues.

Protesting such a dismissal, he explains that most PR activity is benign and largely involves the transmission of information that will be useful to the people looking for it. However, since PR techniques are powerful, with the capacity to shape and influence people's perceptions and behaviour, Butterick underlines the importance of operating these in an ethically correct manner.

Tech challenge

The greatest challenge for the PR industry, according to the author, is how it collectively responds to the technological changes. “Internet sites as a source of news and information are altering our consumption patterns, as consumers want immediate information with stories that interest them and that they comment on and share with other people.”

This, he postulates, might mean the creation of more specialist rather than general newspaper sites, with an explosion in ‘hyper local news sites' serving local areas in towns and cities. “The opportunity here for the PR industry is not only in supplying these sites but also in making direct communication with their target audience that never seemed possible before.”

Recommended reference for communication professionals.

D. Murali

Published on April 06, 2011

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