Challenges to the PR Profession

Jose Manuel Guardado - Chair, Global Alliance

What  exactly is the Public Relations profession worried about globally? What are the concern areas? These were the questions that caught our attention, during the talk – Challenges to the PR Profession by José Manuel Velasco Guardado, Chair of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management.

Firstly, the trust déficit factor came up. It is a distrusting environment. Currently, a prominent fact is that there is a lack of values, he noted. Trust is deteriorating in all institutes in 2017, and the proof was in the Trust Barometer findings that he displayed, which actually demonstrated that the trust gap is widening.

It is an environment where the ‘post-truth has been accepted’. For those who are not aware, according to the Oxford  Dictionary, Post-Truth is: Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. ‘In this era of post-truth politics, it’s easy to cherry-pick data and come to whatever conclusion you desire’.

And, as far as spokespersons go, peers now are as credible as experts. We have to find ways and means to manage this distrusting environment.

Another significant factor is  the digital transformation, that is happening around us. And, getting familiar with this is a must for all of us in PR, he pointed out. But the transformation is no easy task, as we are still  trying to understand the implications of the new set-up. In fact, many brands are still onto conventional media. For whenever change happens, it is noticed that there’s always resistance to change. What is actually required is a “cultural change”.  Who is going to define the guys who change the social rules, he questioned.

Economies across the world are not prepared for the next wave of “automation and robotisation” as per the World Economic Forum’s latest global competitiveness report. His take was that – robotisation is an issue. 21% of jobs in USA are creative which cover – artists, architects, web designers, IT specialists and PR managers. But, the worrying fact is that 86% of these creative jobs have low risk to be replaced by robots. Given this alarming background, how many of us are worrying about how to improve our creativity? “We must be worried, because it is the best way to safeguard our jobs,” he pleaded.

It is indeed a time when the ups and downs will leave a mark. And, managing in these turbulent times, one thing is clear – “Crisis is the new normal”. This is when things go haywire, and can unsettle us, for if we don’t control everything, we feel unsure, irrational. And, since crisis is here to stay, management should adapt to this set of circumstances and become more agile. The implications would involve many factors like – lighter frameworks, emphatic listening, diversity and aging, developing resilience, mediation between short and long term, and last but not least, better forms of storytelling.

All this brings to the forefront – new demands for PR managers, who must be alert to upgrade skills. In fact, the skills spectrum has seen a change and there has been a shift in the important skills required for future growth. According to the Global Communication Report 2017 the situation today is like this – strategic planning (89%), written communication (86%), social media (84%),  multimedia content development (82%), verbal communication (80%), analytics (75%), media relations (68%), business literacy (64%), search engine optimisation (51%), behavioural science (50%), primary research (49%), international experience (43%), media  buying (18%).

Highlighting the lack of global purposes, it got us wondering – is the world really more connected? DHL global connectedness study, pioneered by Pankaj Ghemawat, showed how since 2007 the world has become “less connected” each year. And income inequality in OECD member countries is at its highest level for the past half century. The average income of the richest 10% of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10% across the OECD, up from seven times 25 years ago.

Plus there are “globalisation fears” like  – growing inequality (especially in developed countries), advancing xenophobia, fear caused by technology change (especially job losses due to robotisation of industrial processes), protectionism driven by doubts about the sustainability of the welfare state, the crisis of representative democracy. Another dominating factor is – the rise of ‘ism’ – Populism , Localism, Protectionism, Activism, Isolationism.

Against this pertinent background, his advice to PR professionals was: get experience, work hard with patience, enhance creativity, study, get into planning and coaching (for, we have to coach our leaders!).  “We have to be optimistic in the PR business, and we have to add value to the value chain,” he revealed as the secret to grabbing success in PR land.


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Shree Lahiri
Shree is the Senior Editor at Reputation Today and hopes to move from one focus area to another in the editions that will be released this year. Having worked in Corporate Communications teams, she has experience of advertising, public relations, investor and employee communications, after which she moved to the other side – journalism. She enjoys writing and believes the power of the pen is indeed mighty. Covering the entertainment beat and the media business, she has been involved in a wide range of activities that have thrown open storytelling opportunities.

She can be reached at: @shree_la on twitter

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