Social media is the greatest threat facing the global PR industry


A headline like that is likely to polarise opinion. Before you shoot the messenger, let me explain. The claim is based on the Global Alliance’s new survey of 280 heads of PR industry organisations worldwide.

38 percent of respondents cited social media as the greatest threat facing PR and comms pros today, thanks in part to the competitive pressure it has generated from other marketing disciplines. Respondents ranked social media as the biggest industry threat, above industry relevance; economic uncertainty; budget uncertainty; and, negative business ethics.

On the flipside, rather neatly, more than two-thirds also saw social media as the industry’s greatest opportunity, ahead of globalization; executive tools; stakeholder communications; and, new technology.

Some of the comments generated by this section of the survey are worth noting, and speak to widespread concern over a loss of organizational control. One respondent sees social media as a threat because “this form of instant communication stunts the ability to craft a message with thorough thought and reflection.”

Another calls it “hard to control”, while a third points to “reduced knowledge/control of stakeholder influencers/media/messaging”.

It strikes me that some of these people may be missing the point. Doesn’t public relations become more important in a situation where fast, accessible information is now expected by a rapidly growing variety of stakeholders?

Luckily the “opportunists”, as I’ll call them, appear to see things this way. “The web and new technology potentially make ‘everything’ available to ‘everyone’,” says one. “To some extent everyone is now a stakeholder or, at least an audience.”

Adds another: “Using social media to make synchronized, two-way communications the dominant model.”

The survey is a worthwhile exercise from the Global Alliance, and contains some other interesting nuggets. Global consensus around definition or accreditation of public relations is not rated as a high priority by respondents, compared to the more prosaic fare of demonstrating the value of PR to organizations, and engaging stakeholders outside the profession.

The survey also shows that leaders of the major PR and communications industry associations see five major roles for the profession:
- Applying ethics and responsibility to communication decisions;
- Researching organization’s reputation & stakeholder environment;
- Engaging stakeholders to define the organization’s character (or DNA);
- Developing a listening culture within the organization; and
- Integrating mainstream and social media communication.

Unsurprisingly, business leaders are seen as primary targets when it comes to promoting the industry’s global value. On one thing, the global PR industry can agree: the importance of those holding the pursestrings.

This entry was posted in Digital, Ethics, PR Management, Social Media, Surveys and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Social media is the greatest threat facing the global PR industry

  1. Arun, I totally agree. There’s seems to be some ostrich thinking about social media. Of course it’s hard to control; precisely while skilled PR advice is needed. And ironically, nowhere in the top five major roles is “superb client counsel” mentioned. Perhaps we need a reality check?

    • Jeff, thanks for your comment. I certainly see social media as an opportunity, but it’s clear when I visit other countries that this view is not totally shared. I visited Dubai last week, for instance, and found that – despite the social media-inspired events of the Arab Spring – there is considerable scepticism about social media. Specifically, there are concerns about governments using social media to spread disinformation – in a climate where media trust is low, the issue of authenticity becomes even more important.

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  4. Stephen King says:

    Hi, I just wrote something very similar on my own blog (Poor prospects place journalism at base of career choices… | A Journey Through PR Standards & Ethics and was wondering whether I had gone too far. Although my point is from a slightly different perspective.

    Truth, if advertising/marketing own social media, which in many cases they do now; and if video and graphic design are going to replace press conferences and press releases as preferred tools, commercial PR, the bread and butter for many thousands of professionals around the world is coming to an end.

    Stephen King

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