Advocacy Thought Leadership

Global PR and internal communication trends for 2013, paywalls and pragmatism…and more

Editor’s note: This is the 3rd in a series of 12 guest posts from industry thought leaders predicting key trends that will impact the public relations industry in 2013. Hosted under the hashtag #PRin2013, the series began Jan. 7, 2013, with a compilation post previewing some of the predictions.

PR going global

A Canadian practitioner being invited to contribute to PRSA’s 2013 trends series is one example of PR globalization!

Another is a South African-born former employee of USA headquartered Goldman Sachs publicly declaring—through global media (I heard Greg Smith on CBC Radio)—on the greed-obsessed, uncaring culture of the London, England-based arm of the financial titan.

Interestingly, despite massive global traditional and social media coverage and conversations, Goldman Sachs’ reputation as an international financial institution remains strong. Not only does this speak to the decades-long value and trust for exemplary financial management (its role in the global financial meltdown of 2008-09 being a notable exception), but I believe its leadership received first-rate public relations counsel on how to address the immediate and longer-term impact of the accusations against its internal culture and reputation.

In my review copy of Masters of Disaster: The Ten Commandments of Damage Control, Goldman Sachs gets a “reputation survivor” mention on page 3! And it was gratifying to see its American authors recognizing Canadian Maple Leaf Foods as an exemplary case study in the Third Commandment: Don’t Feed the Fire.

Internal culture and communication

Another trend is cultivating positive internal cultures and employee engagement. I believe North American organizations will be better served by examining workplace values and culture in other countries for possible adoption. Intrigued to learn more about the UK’s Engage for Success initiative launched by Prime Minister Cameron, I invited internal communication specialist (and CIPR member) Rachel Miller, to guest post on PR Conversations.

My interactions with practitioners like Italy’s Toni Muzi Falconi, Portugal’s João Duarte (now with European giant Enel), PRSA member, Sean Williams and Canadian colleague, Fraser Likely, have grown my understanding of the impact of internal communication on PR. One outcome of Rachel Miller’s post was Toni Muzi Falconi asking for an introduction during hisLondon visit; he was intrigued to discuss with Rachel how theUK’s program could be adopted in beleaguered Italian companies, perhaps beginning in 2013….

The Melbourne Mandate and the “communicative organization”

Working hand-in-hand with the globalization of PR is the 2012 Melbourne Mandate, voted acceptance at the Global Alliance’s recent World PR Forum. (PRSA is a founding PR association and your past president, John Paluszek, APR, Fellow PRSA, is the GA’s immediate past chair.) I’m bullish on how this global “call to action for new areas of value in PR and communication management” can be adapted for the key areas of management, governance, sustainability, and internal and external communication, for so many types and sizes of organizations.

Regarding the trend of integrating social media into effective communications, the Mandate recognizes that “unprecedented public access to communication presents new challenges and opportunities for organizations.”

Print off and keep on hand for 2013 the set of roles, responsibilities and principles for a “communicative organization.” And spread the word. I referenced it in my latest Bytes from the PR Sphere column, as a framework for being a social PR “accessible” and “communicative” organization.

The PR vs. marketing debate

In the Public Relations and Communications Professionals LinkedIn Group (with almost 98,000 members), a discussion arose on “whether PR should be under the marketing umbrella.” The vast majority of global participants registered an unequivocal “no,” with articulate arguments for the ideal focus and reporting structure for PR.

Is this a trend for 2013—an educated pushback on marketing’s encroachment? As one participant stated, “Also bear in mind that consultancy PR is a million miles away from in-house work.”

Perhaps 2013 will see PR associations accommodating two streams of needs: in-house PR practitioners with a broad and varied Melbourne-styled Mandate; and the agency/consultancy members who focus mainly on B2C marketing communications.

Regarding the in-house stream, an aspirational trend is for more conferences to feature organizational representatives detailing effective and innovative communication programs.

Media paywalls vs. brand journalism

When media is free and open, the greedy content beast needs to be fed, making it easier for companies to gain profile. But now many newspapers and magazines are constructing paywalls and with them more editorial judiciousness. I believe a 2013 trend will be a bifurcation between truly “newsworthy” stories being pitched and accepted…or greater organizational reliance on brand journalism (i.e., content marketing).

Pragmatism and social PR measurement

I’m a huge proponent of including social media in the integrated communication mix, but I’ve deliberately avoided making it the main focus of my trends.

I end with a pointer to a blogger who provides a great service in pragmatically detailing and measuring business outcomes related to reputation, value and relationship building in social PR (including lagging indicators). Make reading Augie Ray’s blog your “new year” trend; see 10 New Websites to Add to Your Social Media Blog List in 2013.

Judy Gombita is a Toronto-based hybrid public relations, communication management and social media specialist, with more than 20 years of employment and executive-level volunteer board experience, primarily in the financial and lifelong learning nonprofit sectors. She is the co-editor and Canadian contributor (since 2007) to the international, collaborative blog, PR Conversations and also contributes a monthly column on social PR on the Windmill Networking site.

10 Comments

  • Hi Judy and thanks for the great post! 

    Since working on the 2012 World PR Forum (WPRF), I’ve witnessed an increasing global focus on internal culture and communication, however I find this rings true mainly for the in-house PR sector. 

    The Enel study that Jean Valin, Emilio Galli-Zugaro, John Paluszek and others focussed on at the WPRF looked closely at corporate culture and its impact on staff and companies. It found a strongly established corporate culture can result in better outcomes from employees (broadly speaking). From what I’ve seen, agencies don’t seem to funnel the same amount of resources into corporate culture as the in-house sector, there seems to be a higher turnover rate of staff in agencies. However, that’s not to say that the in-house sector achieves better results than agency staff…
    I was happy to see your reference to the Melbourne Mandate, I hope it becomes a global trend and people start to use it more at an academic / study level. At this stage, it hasn’t come up in a practical sense where I work, but I’d like to think about how to integrate it more into the workplace.I was also very pleased to see your point on social media appear last! I think the internet has become flooded with social media posts on PR and marketing blogs. Although that being said, I believe there are many PR practitioners from smaller, boutique agencies or those who work in-house in small firms without access to global, best practice resources, who would benefit a lot from the best practice / how to’s that are out there. Thanks again 🙂

  • Related to Judy’s mention of
    my outreach to Rachel Miller on the UK’s ‘Engage for Success’ program, I am
    pleased to report that on February 19, in the context of Milano Social Media
    Week, a new Movement will be launched by the name of ImpresAperta (open
    enterprise) formed by some twenty representatives of as many initial italian
    companies, plus many other scholars, activists, consultants and institutions.

    This movement inspired by the
    Engage for Success initiative intends to advocate throughout Italian society
    the power of employee engagement. All this thanks to the PR Conversations piece
    by Rachel.

    Toni
    Muzi Falconi

    • Thanks Stephanie for posting Toni Muzi Falconi’s comment, which got lost in the ether. Good thing he kept a copy!

      In addition to the Social Media Week Milan panel presentation, Toni was also invited to write for the Italian version of Huffington Post on “ImpresAperta.”

      I heart how a blog (based in Austria, technically speaking) featured a guest post from a young, female, PR practitioner from the UK….only to have the Engage for Success initiative taken up by one of the world’s most recognized and respected senior PR practitioner/academic (Toni teaches at two Italian universities as well as NYU) from Italy.

      Social and global PR at its finest!

  • Related to Judy’s mention of
    my outreach to Rachel Miller on the UK’s ‘Engage for Success’ program, I am
    pleased to report that on February 19, in the context of Milano Social Media
    Week, a new Movement will be launched by the name of ImpresAperta (open
    enterprise) formed by some twenty representatives of as many initial italian
    companies, plus many other scholars, activists, consultants and institutions.

    This movement inspired by the
    Engage for Success initiative intends to advocate throughout Italian society
    the power of employee engagement. All this thanks to the PR Conversations piece
    by Rachel.

    Toni
    Muzi Falconi

  • Thanks, Katie! When the fellow in the LinkedIn Group wrote the comment:

    “Also bear in mind that consultancy PR is a million miles away from in-house work.”

    it was like a light went off in my head. Most of my working career has been in-house public relations and communication management, so I’ve found it difficult to reconcile the things I focused on in an in-house capacity, with the relentless MARKETING PR–which mainly seems to translate to media relations for most–focus that so many people have.

    That is, until I looked at where they worked. Almost without fail, it was for a (marketing communications) agency, where the focus indeed is on marketing and sales and shareholders and bottom line concerns. Always.

    Not a focus on the things discussed in the Melbourne Mandate!

    Anyhow, I have the Global Alliance’s World PR Forum (in Melbourne) to thank for introducing me to you, Katie. I can’t wait to see where in the world/global PR industry my young Aussie PR practitioner is going to go to next! 

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