On August 15th my quarterly copy of The Public Relations Strategist (published by the Public Relations Society of America) arrived. The Summer 2008 edition’s cover highlighted the feature article, “Where PR Belongs: A Move at Chrysler Spurs Debate.” The provocative title drew me in, so I literally dropped everything (but the magazine) to have a read. Although Chris Cobb’s article focuses on changes to the reporting structure at the US-based auto giant (a company that is now private), it struck me how many of the issues were similar to the “Institutionalization of PR” focus and discussions covered in PRC colleagues’ posts (in preparation for the upcoming Euprera conference). That same afternoon I sent a message of query to The Strategist’s editor, John Elsasser, asking whether the article would (or could) be made available to a non-PRSA (and non-subscriber to The Strategist) audience. On Monday morning a gracious affirmative from John arrived in my in-box.
The core article can be accessed on PRSA’s website here. (I don’t know if the article would automatically have been placed online and accessible to all, but at a minimum thanks are extended to John Elsasser for his speed at facilitating this request and supplying the URL directly.)
Two sidebar articles in the print edition—which provide some context as to the significance (some of our conversationalists say not) regarding the changes at Chrysler—weren’t included in the online version. I’ve transcribed some of the most pertinent parts. The first, “Report: CEOs Say Communications Executives More Valuable Than Ever,” points to “The Authentic Enterprise” report from the Arthur W. Page Society. This release (which Toni Muzi Falconi detailed in an earlier PRC post) indicates, “…the consensus among respondents that top communications executives are more valuable than ever, and the importance of communications will only increase with time.” In addition to communication, CEOs are looking for chief communication executive who:
• know the business
• have an extensive communications background
• can see around corners
• have C-suite credibility
• maintain extensive internal relationships
• are team players; and
• educate their colleagues
The second sidebar article, “Survey: Statistically Sound Correlation Shows PR Function Stronger When Reporting Directly to CEO,” gives a synopsis of the compiled data from the 2008 USC Annenberg School for Communications‘ Public Relations Generally Accepted Practices (GAP) study (which took place over the past six years). It “asks PR practitioners with diverse specialties from a variety of organization to identify the best practices in public relations.” The reporting structure factors heavily into the GAP, showing that those organizations with larger PR budgets are:
• significantly more likely to report to top executives
• be invited into organizational strategic planning
• work with more than one PR agency; and
• coordinate and integrate the various communications function
In the study, 64 percent indicated they reported directly to top executives. Next highest was through the marketing department (23 percent), “…but the study found that these PR operations, though sometimes lavishly funded, do not enjoy the internal influence that C-suite-reporting PR teams take for granted.” For the purposes of this lead article, perhaps even more significantly (in the sidebar) was the paragraph, “Respondents who are unhappy with their reporting structure typically work under the legal, finance, human resources or strategic planning departments, or the heads of business or operational units.” It was noted that though the correlation doesn’t prove causality, it reinforces the importance of a direct reporting relationship.
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On an earlier PRC post, various opinions have already been voiced about this article by Heather Yaxley, Benita Stein, Fraser Likely, Toni Muzi Falconi and Estelle de Beer. Visit the online article on PRSA’s website to read comments to date by Elizabeth Hirst, Benita Steyn and Olanda Stanywyk.
What say you? Are similar significant PR reporting structure changes happening in your organization or country?