US Office of Labour Statistics releases new definitions of public relations practice and new data on numbers of professionals and their average annual income.

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The US Bureau of Labour Statistics has just released new and very interesting data on public relations practice in the US economy here and here.

The most startling element of this new report is the substantial difference from the 2007 one in the description of the function.

The source separates (as it did before) between public relations specialists and public relations managers.

But in 2006 it described specialists as those who:

engage in promoting and creating good will for individuals, groups or organizations by writing and selecting favourable publicity material and releasing it through various communication media. May prepare and arrange displays and make speeches.

and managers as those who

plan and direct public relations programs designed to create and maintain a favourable public image for employer or client; or, if engaged in fundraising, plan and direct activities to solicit and maintain funds for special projects and non profit organizations…

This year’s official government report is much more informative and writes that:

public relations handle organizational functions… media, community, consumer, industry, and governmental relations; political campaigns; interest-group representation; conflict mediation; and employee and investor relations.….must understand the attitudes and concerns of community, consumer, employee, and public interest groups and establish and maintain cooperative relationships with them…(they) draft press releases and contact people in the media who might print or broadcast their material. Many radio or television special reports, newspaper stories, and magazine articles start at the desks of public relations specialists. Sometimes the subject is an organization and its policies…. often the subject is a public issue…(they) also arrange and conduct programs to keep up contact between organization representatives and the public. ….. in addition, they are responsible for preparing annual reports…..in government… (they) keep the public informed about the activities of agencies and officials. ..in large organizations, the key public relations executive, who often is a vice president, may develop overall plans and policies with other executives. In addition, public relations departments employ public relations specialists to write, research, prepare materials, maintain contacts, and respond to inquiries…..people who handle publicity for an individual or who direct public relations for a small organization may deal with all aspects of the job..they contact people, plan and research, and prepare materials for distribution…..

and that

public relations managers supervise public relations specialists…. and direct publicity programs to a targeted audience….often specialize in a specific area, such as crisis management, or in a specific industry, such as health care….use every available communication medium to maintain the support of the specific group upon whom their organization’s success depends, such as consumers, stockholders, or the general public….. (they) also …serve as the eyes and ears of top management…. observe social, economic, and political trends that might ultimately affect the firm, and make recommendations to enhance the firm’s image on the basis of those trends… (they) may confer with labor relations managers to produce internal company communications—such as newsletters about employee-management relations—and with financial managers to produce company reports. they assist..executives in drafting speeches, arranging interviews, and maintaining other forms of public contact; oversee company archives; and respond to requests for information. In addition, some…handle special events, such as the sponsorship of races, parties introducing new products, or other activities that the firm supports in order to gain public attention through the press without advertising directly.

One wonders why this happened and…. I can’t help thinking that, at least a minor part of the reason has to do with the how big is pr?’ report released last year by the Institute for Public Relations which caused some surprise in mainstream public relations thinking and it was also somewhat critical of how the US government describes our profession and, subsequently, collects data, which accomplished thanks to taxpayers moneys, is intended to be significant.

Not that the new description is fully satisfactory (still excludes internal and investor relators, solo consultants, pr research and educators..) but it is much much better!

This event is very telling for the many skeptics amongst professional associations, also because you might remember that only a few weeks ago our cherished co-blogger Catherine Arrow posted here calling for professional associations to move towards Governments to obtain better descriptions of the profession and therefore more reliable data.

When she posted this thought, we of course sent a signal to the more relevant leaders of associations but many responded that, in their country, it would take ages to obtain any such change and that they had better and more relevant things to think about (like award ceremonies and deciding astronomical attendance fees for boring conferences…).

Here is a vivid example of how you can make a difference if only you advocate with credible arguments…. which is at the very core of our profession..isn’t it?

And now to some very interesting data:

°the government source says that in 2007 there were 243.000 specialists and 50.000 managers against, the year before, 191.000 specialists (+27% on 2006 ) and 44.000 managers (+ 11% on 2006).
This amounts to a total of some 300.000. If you reasonably guessstimate the total of internal and investor relators plus public relations solom conusltants, research specialists and managers and educators in 100.000 you would easily arrive at a total of 400.000 public relators in the USA.

°the government source also indicates in 82.180 dollars the annual average income for managers and in 47.350 dollars the same for specialists. If you add gross costs to the organizations involved, multiply and extend to a total of 400.000 your arrive at a total net economic output of the profession of some 15 billion and if you apply the generally accepted convention of multiplying by three to count for added value, you arrive at a gross economic impact of the public relations profession on the United States society of 24 billion.

Comments anyone?

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