Way back in 1983, the young Italian sociologist, Emanuele Invernizzi (current president of the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (Euprera), carried out on behalf of the Italian Federation of Public Relations (Ferpi) his first research project in the public relations domain, titled “Terziario Avanzato e Nuove Professioni: il caso delle rp,” published by Franco Angeli Editore. (The English translation is “Advanced tertiary sector: the case of PR.”)
He researched a representative sample of PR professionals and reported that:
- fifty-seven per cent believed that the progress of public relations was delayed because of the backwardness of entrepreneurial culture, but 70 per cent said that delay was caused by the improvisation of professionals. Not surprisingly, 70 per cent also expressed a great need for professional training and 81 per cent for more specialization.
- additionally, 38 per cent stated the need to achieve operational objectives, 33 per cent to participate in operational decisions and 29 per cent to participate in strategic decisions.
- according to interviewees, 54 per cent of companies had implemented some form of PR, but only 18 per cent had a dedicated department.
Twenty-five years later (in 2008)—see Invernizzi’s paper at the Euprera congress in Milano—that figure of 18 per cent of companies who (in 1983) had a dedicated department, had since become 78 per cent and reporting to organizational leadership.
Also, while it was demonstrated that in 1983 47 per cent of professionals admitted to having followed some sort of specific training, in 2008 that number has risen to 96 per cent.
Again, in 1983 there were only 10 private courses in PR; in 2008, 63 universities offered167 undergraduate and 164 graduate PR courses.
Finally, in 1983 74 per cent of PR professionals were male, whilst in 2008 63 per cent of professionals were female.
More doors slide at Ferpi conference in Milano
These and other data were presented a few weeks ago at a conference in Milano, Italy, organised by Ferpi.
Following Invernizzi’s keynote detailing our past PR history, the young scholar, Stefania Romenti, presented an interesting perspective on Italian public relations professionals in the present, compared to those of other European countries, elaborated from the recent Euprera-led 2010 European Communication Monitor.
To understand where the profession is now and where it will likely be in the next couple of years, it is certainly useful to look through all the attached PowerPoints (provided here in English).
As to the future, the third keynote session [by the author of this post, Toni Muzi Falconi] dwelled on macro trends. The communicative organization, I said, is like Janus (or from a less ethnocentric perspective, yin/yang): on one face the hard cycle, on the other face the soft narrative cycle.
These two are interdependent, interrelated reports on the organization’s leadership. While the first aims at being more efficient, the second aims at enhancing its licence to operate. In this scenario, public relations intended as stakeholder relationships has a major and crucial role to play…but only if we are capable of ensuring that professionals learn how to communicate with rather than to their stakeholders.
To better understand the Italian situation, I will cite a just-finished piece of research, once more promoted by Ferpi, which has yet to be published and presented to the public.
Its title “Beyond,” clearly expresses the substance of the findings: basically, most communication professionals today dismiss the traditional distinction between “above the line” and “below the line.”
These professionals believe that some 70 per cent of communication budgets in the next couple of years in the small- and medium-sized enterprises (the backbone of whatever remains of the Italian economy) will be invested in stakeholder relationships, while at least half of those investments will deal with stakeholder relationships in the large and huge enterprises.