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February 15, 2011

State of Public Relations in 2011: Corporate Trust Meets the WikiLeaks Age — Rosanna Fiske

PRSA chair and CEO Rosanna M. Fiske, APR, discussed the state of the public relations industry, along with the challenges of corporate reputation management in the "WikiLeaks Age," in a speech given Feb. 15, 2011, to the PRSA Miami Chapter.

Thank you, Annabel, PRSA Miami Chapter Board Members and my fellow colleagues for inviting me to speak here today …
I come before you less than two months into my tenure as chair and CEO of the Public Relations Society of America, a professional opportunity that is immensely enlightening and one that I am fortunate to have the opportunity to pursue. I’m also an associate professor in the Florida International School of Journalism and Mass Communication, so my experience and insight spans from many years on the agency side, to now, mentoring the next generation of public relations professionals.
Like many of you, I have seen the dramatic changes that have taken place in our profession over the past decade, and viewed more broadly, since I started in my first corporate position some 20-odd years ago.
After all this time, I’m still passionate about our profession; where our industry is heading; how it helps businesses grow; public relations’ ability to serve the public good; the role we play in protecting and advancing the free flow of accurate and truthful information that is essential to democratic societies. 
It’s a responsibility that I do not take lightly, both my role leading PRSA and my belief in public relations’ ability to do good for the world — both for society and for the clients and organizations we counsel. As you know, we’re in a time of significant global political upheaval, augmented by our own domestic concerns. More specifically, the media landscape we all live and play in has been irrevocably reshaped after the tragedy in Tucson; a moment in time that shed light on a subject dear to our hearts: discourse, the written word and communications. I’ll return to that subject a little later.
It’s not all gloomy, though. We’re in a vibrant period for the industry’s growth and perceived value. While our brethren in advertising have seen a fairly sharp contraction in spending on their services in the United States, down eight percent in 2009, public relations spending is rising — rapidly. In the U.S. alone, we’re now a $4 billion industry, with a 55-percent increase in spending, to $8 billion domestically, by 2013.
When I told this recently to a reporter at the Financial Times, he was so surprised by the robust growth in our industry — he’s used to ad agency execs boasting about the latest big account they’ve won — that he came back to the number 10 minutes later and asked me if this could possibly be correct. It is. And as I told the FT reporter then, businesses and executives often don’t realize they need strategic public relations until it’s too late; PRSA is out to change that perception.
As part of PRSA’s revamped national advocacy program, there are three key areas we now focus on, each of which I’d like to discuss with you today, in the broader context of the current geopolitical and business landscape, and what effect that has on our profession and our value.
Briefly, our national advocacy efforts fall within three categories:
  • The business value of public relations …
  • Ethics, and …
  • Diversity within the profession.
Each forms a core area of focus for PRSA, and will be heavily discussed, among other exciting topics, at our 2011 International Conference in Orlando Oct. 15-18.

Read more (full text of speech).
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