Pulse of the Profession

Surveying the Past, Present and Future of PR

This month, PRsay will feature posts by a variety of thought leaders on the year ahead for communicators and the PR profession. A shorter version of this response first appeared in the January issue of Strategies & Tactics.

For those of us who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s, surely you will remember the appeal by the Youngbloods, “Everybody get together/ Try to love one another right now.”

That was 50 years ago.

For more than 100 years, all of us — agencies, clients and educators, working together around the world through mutuality of endeavor — defined a new industry. Great counseling firms were founded and legendary corporate communications departments were born.

We have formed strategic, client-agency partnerships that drive performance and build reputations. Important professional organizations and groundbreaking degree programs were created.

For example, this past year marked the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRSA. And 70 years ago, Boston University, my alma mater (full disclosure), offered the world’s first degrees in public relations. We have set standards for our discipline and developed and shared knowledge and best practices.

We have come far together.

Yet as we look at 2018 — and the years to come — there is much that remains to be done. We are in an age with exogenous challenges, such as social and political complexity, forceful and rapid shifts in the dynamics of business and economics, technological and media disruption, and financial constraints.

There are contemporaneous professional challenges, such as matching strength against an extraordinary competitive set, measuring and delivering value, seizing the opportunities that the richness of data and analytics brings to public relations, attracting and retaining new and diverse talent, gender pay equity and, of course, at a time when we seemingly are overrun by misinformation, the imperative of working to the highest level of standards and ethics.

We always have met our challenges — this is one of the things that has made us great. We will meet our challenges again and prevail by recommitting to our common interests.

So let us leverage our collective strength and, with the spirit of community that brought us through the past century, remain engaged and continue to define our discipline together, build our value, ensure practice to the highest standards, and realize the leadership in the world of communications and marketing that awaits us in 2018 — over the course of our next 100 years.


Ray Kotcher, APR, Fellow PRSA, is Professor of the Practice of Public Relations, Boston University College of Communication. He is the Non-Executive Chairman, Ketchum.  

1 Comment

  • I appreciate how Kotcher emphasizes the progression of the public relations industry over the last century. As a young PR professional, it is inspiring to hear his message of hard work and successful developments in the industry. Kotcher notes how our industry continues to grow and change with developments in media and technology. While the platforms and media of public relations change, I agree with the blog’s message to say that a PR practitioner’s spirit and determination should be as strong as it was 100 years ago. – Darsey Norton, Writer/Editor for Platform Magazine

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