Gobal Study Looks at PR Leadership

Global Study Looks at PR Leadership

One of NSPRA’s roles is to serve as curator of communication research. We review the research and, in turn, wade through it so you don’t have to. It is often a daunting task to find any relevant research and make it relevant for you.

We recently came across a study that the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at the University of Alabama released in October. Nearly 4,500 private, public, and nonprofit professionals in 23 countries completed the survey. Some 70% of the participants currently hold the #1 or #2 leadership positions within their organizations. IBM and Heyman Associates co-sponsored the study, with research allies in Brazil, Hong Kong, and Germany. For the full study findings, go to: plankcenter.ua.edu/the-summit/

Here are just a few excerpts from the full study with their analysis:

Millennials” Look at the PR Profession

Ron Alsop’s book, The Trophy Kids Grow Up, is one of several that describe the first wave of the millennial generation and the values, expectations, and changes they bring to the workplace. Our survey provides some evidence of generational differences. Younger professionals (< 36 years) rank professional image and measurement as significantly more important issues than do older age groups. They give high ratings to the need to develop talent. They give significantly lower ratings to the actual presence of two-way communication in their organizations. They are more positive about the future of the profession, and they rate 8 of the 12 approaches to developing future leaders significantly higher than other age groups. These include: accreditation, associations working together, measurement, and emotional intelligence.

Measurement Remains the 800-Pound Gorilla in Communication Units Worldwide

The salience and valence of media coverage still rules measurement approaches in most surveyed countries. Yet, the measurement issue is rated as the #3 issue among 10 big issues in the field.

Given the sharply increased focus on measurement standards by several groups and organizations today, it seems likely that more reliable and meaningful measurement approaches and standards ¾ and the moment of truth ¾ are close at hand. Who will embrace these approaches and use measurement to build competitive advantage — for the organization?

Yes, measurement can certainly be a competitive advantage for the profession and the organization. Who gets left behind? Who will have the vision? And who will seize the opportunity to deliver measurement knowledge and skill to those who hunger for it? (Note: NSPRA’s Benchmarking Project is working on this issue for NSPRA members.)

Soft Skills and Self-insights Are the Holy Grail of Future Leaders

Yes, digital media skills are crucial, and so are enhanced measurement skills. But practitioners say mastering the so-called soft people skills — better listening, cultural sensitivity, emotional intelligence, conflict-resolution capabilities, and change management skills — is crucial to improving PR leaders for an uncertain future. More widely publicized systemic changes such as accreditation, a global education curriculum, measurement standards, and enforcement of ethical codes are also important, but survey results suggest systemic changes run second to soft skills.

Aren’t soft skills, for example, crucial to successfully implementing the model for corporate communication proposed by the Arthur W. Page Society? The model calls for activating organizational character and engaging individual customers, investors, employees, community members, and others as advocates for shared beliefs and actions.

Aren’t listening skills, cultural sensitivity and change management skills vital in doing so? To develop these and other capabilities, leaders must spend more of that scarce resource — time — in self-reflection, in thinking about how they think, and in knowing their strengths and limitations. Self-reflection is not a passive activity, but it is the pathway to greater self-awareness, which is the basis for improving leadership skills and connecting more.

The study offers additional insight about the communication profession. See for yourself at plankcenter.ua.edu/the-summit/.

Indeed, our profession is changing as it is must to meet the new realities of our mobile and ever-changing audiences. As the report notes, we all must better use our scare resource — time — to analyze the best ways to perform our communication function and to elevate the skills and practices of all professionals in school communication.

Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director

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