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Report Says Marketing and PR Will Be More Closely Aligned in the Next Five Years

The USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations recently released the results of its Global Communications Report, which surveyed 875 public relations executives, 687 public relations students, and 101 marketing executives. One of the most interesting findings of this report is that people in the PR and marketing fields tend to think public relations is converging more and more with marketing. Whether you’re in PR or marketing, this apparent trend should intrigue you because it will affect your field very soon. Sure, the survey respondents can’t tell the future, but their experience in the workplace has probably given them enough insight to make some predictions about how marketing and PR will transform in the future of work. Here’s what they said.

Where Will Public Relations Be in Five years?

The gist of the report is that nearly half of PR professionals and more than half of marketers feel that public relations will become more closely aligned with marketing within the next five years. More specifically, 47 percent of agency PR professionals, 45 percent of in-house PR professionals, and 61 percent of marketing professionals all make this claim.

marketing-and-prOf course, not every survey respondent agreed. A lot of PR professionals (and not very many marketers) believe that PR will play an increasingly key role compared to marketing. That’s what 29 percent of agency PR professionals, 23 percent of in-house PR professionals, and just 12 percent of marketers said.

On the flip side, 20 percent of marketers think public relations will become a subset of marketing. Not surprisingly, that idea was not very popular with PR professionals! About 5 percent of those in an agency and 8 percent of those working in house agreed with this.

Basically, while many respondents think PR and marketing will be working together more than ever, some professionals on both sides think their field will be more important than the other. At least the respondents of this survey seem loyal to their field!

Most PR Professionals Think Public Relations Should Be Renamed

Just 14 percent of agency and 13 percent of in-house PR professionals said that in five years, “public relations” will accurately describe their work.

Most seem to think the term should be adjusted in some way. About 54 percent of agency and 46 percent of in-house PR professionals think it needs to be defined more broadly, while 33 percent of agency and 41 percent of in-house PR professionals flat out think it needs to be renamed.

For what it’s worth, the students surveyed are a little more optimistic than the professionals, but aren’t they always? About a quarter of the students said “public relations” accurately describes the work they’ll be doing in five years.

Just over half said it should be more broadly defined, and only 18 percent said it should be renamed completely. But there was no mention of what the new name should be… Do you have any guesses?

Trends That Will Affect PR in Five Years

Both the PR professionals and marketers taking part in this survey were asked what trends they thought would most affect public relations in the next five years. Though the responses from both groups were similar, they didn’t quite agree on the importance of each trend.

For example, 88 percent of PR professionals said digital storytelling would be most important. Though 80 percent of marketers agreed, even more (88 percent) said social listening would be the most crucial trend in public relations. About 82 percent of PR professionals agreed with that.

These are some of the top trends overall that more than 50 percent of the PR professionals (and many of the marketers) said would be critical in five years:

  • Digital storytelling
  • Social listening
  • Social purpose
  • Big data
  • Behavioral research
  • Influencer marketing
  • Real time marketing
  • Branded content
  • Live streaming

Most of the students surveyed by USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations said they are interested in these top trends, but they’re not feeling very prepared to take them on. For instance, while 72 percent said they’re interested in digital storytelling, only 55 percent said they’re prepared to try it out.

So, which trends do they feel most prepared for? About 58 percent said they’re ready to work on branded content. By contrast, only 29 percent said they’re prepared for live streaming. At least now they know which areas to improve before they graduate, thanks to this survey.

How Can Public Relations Increase Its Value?

The simple answer that most marketers and PR professionals chose for this question is to “demonstrate how PR programs achieve measurable business objectives.” About 89 percent of marketers chose this response, along with 72 percent of in-house PR professionals and 80 percent of those working in an agency.

The next most popular answer among marketers was “improve measurement of results,” which 53 percent of marketers chose. But the PR professionals surveyed thought differently, since their second answer to the question of how PR could increase its value was “demonstrate leadership on key business initiatives.” “Delivering creative solutions” was the third choice among public relations professionals.

Though public relations is clearly set to evolve in the next few years, most people in this industry seem to be satisfied with their career. About 68 percent of students surveyed said they are proud to work in PR, and 92 percent of agency executives and 70 percent of in-house professionals said they predict growth in this field in the next five years. Apparently, the idea of changing the name of public relations doesn’t faze them!

Read the Global Communications Report in its entirety, and then let us know what you think. Are you surprised by how much marketing and PR will be converging in the next few years?