PR research priorities – final report

Posted on: July 30, 2007

After three months of discussion, the Study of the Priorities for Public Relations Research (PR Priorities Study – final report) has been completed. The initial piloting was undertaken on DummySpit in April and led to the setting of 26 public relations topics. These were sent to a Delphi study panel (of experts) in five continents covering top academics, leading practitioners and the CEOs of PR industry bodies. After three rounds of intensive email debate, the Top Ten PR research topics are:

1) Public relations’ role in contributing to strategic decision-making, strategy development and realisation, and organisational functioning

2) The value that public relations creates for organisations through building social capital, managing key relationships and realising organisational advantage

3) The measurement and evaluation of public relations, both offline and online

4) Public relations as a fundamental management function

5) Professional skills in public relations; analysis of the industry’s need for education

6) Research into standards of performance among PR professionals; the licensing of practitioners

7) Management of corporate reputation; measurement of reputation

8) Ethics in public relations

9) Integration of public relations with other communication functions; the scope of public relations practice; discipline boundaries

10) Management of relationships

Just outside the top ranked priorities are:

11) Client/employer understanding of public relations

12) The impact of technology on public relations practice and theory.

This report is the first completed international study on public relations research priorities (using a Delphi panel) since the mid-1990s and gives valuable insight into the ‘front and centre’ public relations research areas around the world.

The results will allow academics and practitioners to work closely together to improve understanding of public relations and its most effective and ethical use. It is a benchmark that all research plans and funding can be judged by for relevance and importance.


8 Responses to "PR research priorities – final report"

I have my doubts about the ability of the PR industry to even contemplate the first issue.

The significance of disintermediation, the value of intangible assets, enforced transparency, management of unknowns and porous organisations is not much discussed in PR circles. It will be interesting if this study brings these issues into the debate.
They require a comprehensive understanding of ICT and social media mediated business and economic theory and advanced management tools.
We have an example.
The human misery of UK floods, mirrored in China on a gargantuan scale, offers a view of the extent to which these management strategies have to be considered.
The engine of news and views in the UK was not the the mass media. It was the blog posts and cell phone videos of vox pop. The engine of the news was not reporters on the ground, it was Joe using his cell phone from a bedroom window.
Their impact is different to the mediated media because they create instant publics with tools (blogs etc) and teeth (organisation).
The Walham electricity sub station that was vulnerable to inundation is now and forever under the scrutiny of the global public with a ‘long tail’ history accumulating all the time. Historically it would have been a local issue and one week’s worth of headlines. Now it has specific values attached that can be summoned up at any time and has now changed the asset value of the sub-station and the company.
The story will affect the way the company sets prices, presents its earnings, deploys investments and assets not just for a consumer or financial audience but to social groups using social media directly influencing political, traditional media, investors and others. They can and will demand and get added corporate transparency far more effectively than any newspaper acting in its traditional role.
So much for issues on this scale. But what of the preparations in consumer PR for the disaster taking place today in China? The country where much of our consumer products come from? This is not a one off corporate matter for the PR industry.
To do anything based on this study will require a huge change from what we know today.
To be involved in strategic decision-making, strategy development and realisation, and organisational functioning will require both understanding and capability that is well beyond any PR conference contribution or academic papers on that will be presented this year across the world. Corporate Social responsibility will be chewed on endlessly and, by comparison is bling.
Could a PR practitioner really deploy the kind of heavily computerised risk analysis that is common in the City? Are there practitioners tough enough to put across the significance of this level of change to modern management?
Are the responses to the delphi study hype and hope or from an understanding of what is really happening to organisations?

[…] priority list Published August 1st, 2007 Uncategorized Bournemouth University’s Dr. Tom Watson has posted the final report on the Study of the Priorities for Public Relations Research (PR […]

[…] I have mentioned before in this blog Tom Watson’s on going deplhi study on priorities for public relations research. Well, the study is now finished and you can read all about its conclusions here tom’s blog […]

Great stuff — just sent the link to all my colleagues in the Grady College at UGA. Thanks for sharing.

Tom, Since it might be of interest here, I am alerting you to a comment I posted on PRConversations today that is related to your
Nr 1 PR research topic namely:

1) Public relations’ role in contributing to strategic decision-making, strategy development and realisation, and organisational functioning.

I’m surprised at the number one result. I had thought a lot of these points were considered – and responded to in the IABC Excellence study undertaken by Grunig et co in the 90s. If I recall correctly, the study provided plenty of research and findings on the strategic role that PR *could* play.

[…] das Ergebnis seiner aktuellen Delphi-Studie über die wichtigsten Felder der PR-Forschung veröffentlich. Basierend auf einer dreimonatigen mehrstufigen Befragungs- und Diskussionsphase mit […]

So, where does this paper fit in? Taken from the list of papers presented at this year’s AEJMC meeting:

Infusing Two-Way Symmetry with Postmodern Values: Isocratean Rhetoric and Public Relations’ Dominant Theoretical Paradigm • Charles Marsh, Kansas • Postmodern philosophy has presented significant challenges to the practicality, universality, and justice of the dominant paradigm of public relations theory: the Excellence Theory, including the concept of two-way symmetrical relationships. This paper seeks to show that the successful, symmetrical rhetoric of Isocrates in fourth century BCE Athens presents a practical model for the infusion of postmodern values into 21st-century two-way symmetry.

That’s quite a mouthful. Does it fit under the category with the smiley face?
This is typical of the crap that gets published while PR grads can’t write a coherent sentence.

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