Milano, Italy will host from 16 to 18 October 2008 the annual Euprera conference, hosted by Ferpi and IULM University. The topic in discussion will be ‘Institutionalizing public relations and corporate communication’….From an organizational perspective I advance the thought that a blatant contradiction emerges in the accelerating trend of the fate of public relations directors of private, public and social sector organizations in many countries being increasingly tied to that of the Ceo. Once, this happened only in organizations where the function was an add-on to the core of other managerial roles, and its mandate was mostly geared to enhance the public perception of leadership. In organizations where so-called strategic public relations was embedded, this happened only rarely: the director of pr served the organization first and, in doing this, also served its leadership. Thus, the function could well be considered institutionalized.
Today this is very rare and in most instances public relations professional seem to follow their boss wherever she/he ends up working. To the point that, in quoted companies, minority shareholders sometime argue that the cost of a public relations director should be included in the Ceo’s compensation package, not differently from the ceo’s personal assistant or chauffeur, thus de-institutionalizing the role. The reason for this is that it is very rare that when a conflict of interest emerges between a Ceo and the served organization, the public relations director operates on behalf of the latter rather than the former.
Undoubtedly, there are many arguments to reinforce the general perception that the role is indeed increasing its central function in the organization: for example, public relations directors come more often from other managerial disciplines and not as once happened from journalism or politics; also, overall investments are much larger than before; practices such as internal relations, investor relations, supplier relations, international relations and even marketing relations, corporate advertising or regulatory relations and legal counsel are more frequently attributed to the function rather than just the traditional media relations, public affairs, protocol or the organization of events.
However, in the documentation which I have found on this issue, very little attention is focused, if any, on the seemingly inextricable relationship between the pr director and his/her boss. In my view this is an inherent weakness of a (desirable?!) institutionalization process. Your opinion please?