FiftyOneZeroOne

What are the priorities for future public relations research?

Posted on: April 18, 2007

I’m about to conduct a Delphi study into the priorities for public relations research over the next 10 year and have identified 24 topics that could be studied. The list, which is not in a priority ranking, has been drawn from previous studies, conference and academic papers, and by monitoring offline and online articles and discussion.

I’d like your views on what the priorities should be (nominate up to ten topics) and any gaps in this analysis.

– Strategic planning of public relations programmes
– Quality of public relations services
– Research into standards of performance among PR professionals; the licensing of practitioners
– Integration of PR with other communication functions; the scope of PR practice; discipline   boundaries
– The measurement and evaluation of public relations, both offline and online
– Client understanding of public relations strategy and tactics
– Professional skills in PR; Analysis of the industry’s need for education; Theories of practice
– Management of relationships; stakeholder approaches; negotiation and conflict resolution
– The definition of public relations
– The impact of technology on public relations practice and theory
– The culture of public relations
– International issues in public relations; Cross-cultural public relations
– The image of public relations; public relations’ position as a fundamental management function
– The expectations of users of public relations; The client: consultancy/adviser interface
– Public relations’ role in organisational change; Internal communications
– The place of “word-of-mouth” and buzz marketing in public relations practice
– Ethics in public relations
– Relations with the media
– The history of public relations
– Gender issues in public relations practice
– The role of PR in community/social responsibility programmes
– Management of corporate reputation; measurement of reputation
– Crisis management and communication; issues management
– Political communication and advocacy (lobbying)

Please consider this list and post your responses, as I’m keen to run this discussion in parallel with the more formal research process, I’ll keep you updated with summaries from two research discussions and we can see where they converge or separate.

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17 Responses to "What are the priorities for future public relations research?"

My top eight nominees (in no particular order):

1- Research into standards of performance among PR professionals; the licensing of practitioners
2- The measurement and evaluation of public relations, both offline and online
3- Integration of PR with other communication functions; the scope of PR practice; discipline boundaries
4- The definition of public relations
5- The place of “word-of-mouth” and buzz marketing in public relations practice
6- The impact of technology on public relations practice and theory
7- Management of corporate reputation; measurement of reputation
8- Professional skills in PR; Analysis of the industry’s need for education; Theories of practice

Good luck.

More important first, but not ranked strictly:

1 The place of “word-of-mouth” and buzz marketing in public relations practice (and of social media?)

2 The impact of technology on public relations practice and theory

3 The role of PR in community/social responsibility programmes

4 Management of corporate reputation; measurement of reputation

5 The measurement and evaluation of public relations, both offline and online

6 Public relations’ role in organisational change; Internal communications

Tom, in no particular order:
1 Research into standards of performance
2 Integration with other comms functions
3 Client understanding
4 Impact of technology
5 Image of PR and position as management function
6 Measurement & evaluation
7 Expectations of users and interface
8 Word of mouth and buzz marketing

Could you also consider the place of Comms/PR pros in the boardroom?

Be good to catch up soon
Steve

Overriding and equal priority to:

–“The definition of PR” and to “Integration of PR with other communications; the scope of PR practice; discipline boundaries”.

Most of the others are dependent on the answer to the above, however the following would contribute to the understanding:

–Client understanding of public relations strategy and practice
–Strategic planning of public relations
–Pr’s position as a fundamental management function – I have deliberately omitted the opening of this item “The image of PR”.

What else would you expect from a committed integrationist!

Finally, because of a need to define what it is and what is not in society today, I’d add
–“Ethics in PR” which would also embrace “political communication and advocacy (lobbying)”

David.

Tom

Problem with working with old lists of research priorities, like the list developed out the Delphi study that I carried out in 1994, is that the topics identified were current then.

It will be interesting to see how your list develops against the lists developed in earlier years — have we made much progress?

My list slightly modifies and adds to yours:

– The definition of public relations (precisely what is the practice to achieve)
– Role of public relations in contributions to strategic decision-making, strategy development and realisation, and organisational functioning
– The part public relations plays in the creation of value for organisations, through building social capital, managing key relationships and realising organisational or competitive advantage
– Professional skills in public relations, and analysis of the practice’s need for education in order to make the contributions suggested above

Look forward to hearing on the next stages.

Jon

Hi Tom,

I would nominate the following from your list (as shown below). In addition, I think the following topic is of interest

“social media and its role in public relations – and measuring the impact of social media in achieving PR objectives”

– The measurement and evaluation of public relations, both offline and online
– Management of relationships; stakeholder approaches; negotiation and conflict resolution
– The impact of technology on public relations practice and theory
– International issues in public relations; Cross-cultural public relations
– The place of “word-of-mouth” and buzz marketing in public relations practice

Glenn

Thanks to everyone for responses. With these and others coming by email, it’s providing a very useful picture. In response to Jon White’s comments, about the weight of history shaping the topics I’ve put forward, let me explain how they have been prepared.

I looked back at past delphi studies like White & Blamphin 1994, Synnott & McKie 1997, took in account a forthcoming analysis of the problematic issues in the development of public relations as a profession by Professor Anne Gregory; recent professional and academic conference papers in Australia, Slovenia, United Kingdom and the United States; industry media, both print and online in the UK and North America; and a multitude of blogs and online PR discussion forums. By this manner, I aim to refer back to past studies, note current discussion and identify future issues.

I hope this provides helpful background on the study as being forward-looking, although some of the old favourites are already rising up the priorities that respondents have suggested.

TOM

Hi Tom, all good comments above, my preferences are
1. Integration of PR with other professional disciplines – the identification of areas of cross-over with for example HR, social marketing and especially the management function.

The impact of technology on public relations practice and theory

I can’t think of a think I’d add, and I really can’t wait to see the results! thanks for doing this

Tom,

From my daily browse of ukpress.org, where account execs, freelancers et al ping out their cries for help, I am amazed at the incredible lack of knowledge from individuals who have clearly won the confidence of their clients – somehow! So: quality of public relations services and research into standards of performance across PR professionals: the licensing of practitioners would get my vote.

Flora

Hi Tom,

Sorry I’ve taken awhile to answer this, but really want to help you out if possible. So here goes–my 10 choices from your list, in rank order to what I feel are the most important:
1. Quality of public relations services
2. The measurement and evaluation of PR, both offline and online (and particularly online)
3. International issues in PR (of course)
4. The impact of technology
5. Client (including internal organisational management) understanding of PR practices
6. Integration of PR with other communication (and other organisational)functions (I think encroachment is an increasingly major problem for the PR field, and we have no one to blame but ourselves)
7. The role of PR in community/social responsibility programmes
8. The ethics of PR
9. Management of corporate reputation
10. Crisis/issues management

Hope these help, Tom! This is good work you’re doing. Please keep it up.

Rob

hey Tom,

coming from India where we’re witnessing a boom, i’d look for results on the following:

#1 – Professional skills in PR; Analysis of the industry’s need for education (ESPECIALLY COZ WE’RE FACING A HUGE TALENT CRUNCH!)

– Client understanding of public relations strategy and tactics
– Strategic planning of public relations programmes
– Integration of PR with other communication functions;
– The measurement and evaluation of public relations, both offline and online
– Research into standards of performance among PR professionals; the licensing of practitioners
– Management of relationships; stakeholder approaches; negotiation and conflict resolution
– The impact of technology on public relations practice and theory
– Ethics in public relations
– Management of corporate reputation; measurement of reputation
– Political communication and advocacy (lobbying)

Cheers,
Christopher

If we look back three years at available channels for communication and available technologies as well as the nuro-psychology advances, it suggests that looking ahead ten years is to view PR that will need to have a number of over-riding elements to survive. We have to be able to manage uncertainty (notably in communications channels); we have to manage change; we have to manage risk; we have to manage opportunity and we will need a portfolio of relationship capabilities to hone research, skills and technologies in a continuum.

I would not be as proscriptive as Jon. I think we will need to identify the nature and elements of relationships in changing values and the values associated with developing relationships.

The answers to these two subjects offers fundemental insights into all the others.

Tom,

I hope I don’t show myself as hopelessly out of touch after being focused on my own special topic for so long, but here are my ten (without cheating and seeing what others have written!)in no particular order of ranking:

Strategic planning of public relations programmes;
Quality of public relations services;
The measurement and evaluation of public relations, both offline and online;
Client understanding of public relations strategy and tactics;
Management of relationships – stakeholder appraoches, negotiation and conflict resolution;
The impact of technology on public relations practice and theory;
The expectations of users of public relatons – the client, consultancy/adviser interface;
The place of word-of-mouth and buzz marketing in public relations practice;
Crisis management and communications , issues management;
Political communication and advocacy (lobbying).

Hi Tom,

Since September I have been studying for the MSc in public relations at Stirling University and I would like to say that I am very pleased to see someone carrying out such extensive research as I have realised that there is a severe lack of it being carried out in certain areas.

The two areas I am most interested in are detailed below.

In my opinion more research must be done with regards to the influence of technology on PR practice and whether or not students should still be taught the traditional theories.

Secondly, I believe that more research has to be conducted regarding PR education. I am a firm believer in all education and I think that in order for the industry to be taken seriously as a profession then eductaion should be taken more seriously. One of my class mates has recently had a very bad experience at an interview for one of the top consuiltancies, the recruitment agency basically rubbished his Masters degree and said that they wouldn’t recruit people with such an eductaional background. This cannot be good for the industry and its future.

Good luck with your research.

Deborah

Tom,

So many areas are priorities for research but I have to highlight the impact of social media and PR’s integration with other departments:

1. The measurement and evaluation of public relations, both offline and online
2. Integration of PR with other communication functions; the scope of PR practice; discipline boundaries
3. Political communication and advocacy (lobbying)
4. The expectations of users of public relations; The client: consultancy/adviser interface
5. Research into standards of performance among PR professionals; the licensing of practitioners
6. Quality of public relations services
7. The place of “word-of-mouth” and buzz marketing in public relations practice
8. Management of corporate reputation; measurement of reputation
Hope I am not too late!

Cheers,

Michael

I am so excited to have come across this site. I am an MBA student in Africa, Zambia and l have been thinking of writing a dissertation topic in PR. I have a background in Public Administration with Mass Communication and l have been working as a PR practitioner for about 14years. I have also attended various PR professional courses to enhance my PR skills. I decided to browse the net for possible PR research topics and couldnt believe it when l got to this site. Initially my topic was; “analsying the impact of strategic PR in attaining corporate goals”. So having seen the other topics, l can beef it up. Thanks and please keep me posted.

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