USC Annenberg’s 2017 Global Communications Report predicts convergence of marketing and public relations

87% of PR executives believe the term “public relations” does not describe their future.

The USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations (CPR) has released key findings from its second annual Global Communications Report (GCR17), a comprehensive survey of more than 800 public relations executives from around the world. For the first time ever, the report also features insights from almost 700 public relations and communications students, along with in-house marketing executives.

A key finding from this year’s study is the degree to which the public relations function is converging with marketing. Almost half of PR professionals included in the study predict that public relations will become more aligned with marketing over the next five years. In a surprising turn, only 8 % of PR professionals believe that PR will be a distinct and separate function. When marketers were asked the same question, 57% were convinced that the two functions would be more aligned in the future, with 20% predicting PR will become a subset of marketing.

“Monitoring this trend toward convergence, and understanding its implications, is one of the most critical issues facing the public relations industry today,” said Fred Cook, Director of the USC Center for Public Relations and Chairman of Golin, a leading PR firm. “We’re seeing a lot consolidation on both the agency and corporate fronts, which has the potential to diminish the role of the PR professional.”

Complicating matters, 87% of PR executives believe the term “public relations” won’t accurately describe the work they will be doing in five years.  Almost half believe PR needs to be more broadly defined, while the rest think the name should be changed. Interestingly, not-yet-jaded students are far more comfortable with the current terminology than seasoned pros. Fewer than 20% think the name needs to be changed and 85% are relatively comfortable explaining it.

When it comes to trends that will be most important over the next five years, digital storytelling ranked above all others, followed by social listening, social purpose and big data. The combination of these items illustrates the rapid change that the industry has seen in recent times. Emerging technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence fell farther down the list of key trends that will play a vital role, while fake news and Donald Trump were ranked at the bottom.

Read more on the USC Annenberg site.

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