Wednesday, January 4th, 2012 - Pier Advisory
The global economic turbulence will serve to provide unique opportunities for the public relations (“PR”) industry in 2012, as its march to the boardroom continues.

Strategic communications consultancy Pier Advisory lists five significant predictions for the PR and communications industry, covering social media, corporate messaging, full-service propositions, metrics and MBAs.

Managing Director of Pier Advisory, Mr Jeffrey Naqvi, explains, “It’s that time of year where everyone has a punt on where the world will go in the next 12 months. With PR, many of this year’s developments will be as a direct result of earlier actions. That’s the thing with PR - people say it’s so unpredictable but if you get the strategy and the planning right, you can predict a course relatively accurately.”

One prediction relates to the need for PR agencies to embrace full-service client propositions to their client base.

“There is still a separation between PR and marketing. In order to deliver a true client result, you have to combine one with the other. The disciplines within each area intertwine effortlessly these days, it will be the stubborn purist who risks losing out.

“Clients need the full-service treatment. In a downturn, those agencies with strong counter-cyclical services will do best. Agencies will start to adopt business models which have PR positioned as a key part of overall strategic communications.”

Another prediction made by Pier Advisory relates to PR as a discipline, and points to its eventual place in MBA programs worldwide.

Mr Naqvi continues, “Since the turn of the century, changes in Web 2.0 technology and the shift to opinion-led news cycles made CEOs worldwide demand expert advice on how to deal with it all. Rather than continually invite them to make ‘cameo’ appearances at meetings and dispense advice, progressive CEOs took the step to put PR positions inside the executive tent.

“This becomes a real force of change when considering the profiling of future CEOs. Traditionally thought the ultimate career step for those with a financial background, we should recognise that current ‘Gen Y-ers’ with backgrounds in communications will go on to comprise a greater proportion of the world’s CEOs in the future.

“The MBA programs of today will begin to appear deficient if they don’t include specific training on the world of PR and communications.”

The five predictions in full for 2012:

1. Show us your counter cycle - agencies with a strong counter-cyclical practice will do well. Those who do not rely heavily on big budget campaign spends will fare better, simply because there won't be many around. Even companies with money to spend on campaigns, won't want to be seen to be excessive. Agencies will need a compelling offering in core communications disciplines, and people conversant in all disciplines as opposed to 'stunt experts', will be in demand.

2. Message to my heart - investment in corporate messaging in a bid to build loyalty will become key for companies in 2012. PRs will be called to action accordingly. Companies will seek to reduce spend wherever they can, and this means minimising marketing overheads and recruitment costs. Business development tends to therefore focus on existing work, and trying to get an increased share of wallet from existing revenue sources. Companies will also be desperate to hold onto good talent, and value propositions to their employees in a bid to retain them will be critical.

3. Putting the PR into MBA - CEOs are seeing the increasing value of PR, as evidenced by the increasing frequency of PR roles forming part of the executive. Getting this discipline into the strategic and operational decision-making makes it a must-have component of any leadership training and development. Technical disciplines such as accounting, finance and law all provide a solid skill set for leadership, but these skills count for scant unless they can be packaged up and communicated to a broad audience. With MBA programs coming under increasing pressure from industry and academia alike to refresh and revamp for a changing business world, PR is predicted to be a new addition to MBAs and other executive programs in early-adopter business schools and universities.

4. The maturity of metrics - the discussion on Return on Investment (ROI) as it relates to PR will continue, as companies look to cut spend. This will trigger in-house PR and communications functions to try and justify their existence. The important thing to realise is that any metric will not do - getting 250 people to an event is pointless if it's the wrong target; reporting that 70 percent of people opened an e-newsletter isn't necessarily a sign of success. If they don’t have a seat at the top table, then PRs need to use metrics maturely with their C-Level decision-makers, and use metrics which speak a language these decision-makers will understand.

5. Step one, web 2.0 - social media is quick and cheap. But get it wrong, and it can also be nasty. Expect to see more disasters as companies still grapple with this technology to make it work for them. The PR conference circuit will continue to be peppered with sessions on social media. Expect to see an increasing prevalence of social media ‘experts', with accompanying ‘crazy’ role titles (eg Social Media Guru / Svengali / Goddess) within agencies, being aggressively marketed. Such roles will continue to grow in-house too. In their haste to appear ‘on the pulse’, agencies and in-house departments need to ensure they equip their existing employees with a working knowledge of integrating social media into overall campaigns.

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Pier Advisory

Pier Advisory specialises in strategic communications, change management, cross-border strategies and engaging people. We like to keep our focus on clients by providing advice, expertise and if required, sleeves-rolled-up yakka, in a way which makes practical sense to them, their clients and their stakeholders.

Located close to its clients, Pier Advisory has access to a worldwide network of experienced resources ready to work on specialist international assignments of any magnitude. The people at Pier Advisory have all worked inside organisations for many years, in senior positions overseeing or leading the areas we now focus on. We put together the best people for your work, only once you have told us precisely what you need.
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