Jean Cardwell, of the Chicago-based Cardwell Consultants- Executive Selection and Personnel Planning, writes:
"Up to now, the two most important skills sought for in public relations have been strong writing talent and the ability to interact with senior management. To get the writing skills businesses needed, they recruited public relations professionals from the ranks of newspaper men and women. This was particularly true of corporate public relations and public relations agencies. But now there is a broadening of public relations responsibilities and greater recognition of the valuable input to chief executive officers from top public relations pros. Therefore public relations recruiting has turned to other companies, in some cases competitors, public relations agencies, government, and the investment community. This does not preclude the recruiting of newspaper personnel into public relations ranks, but we are seeing a much wider choice of fields for recruiting. This probably will continue to broaden as business realizes the ever-widening responsibilities that can be handled in their public relations organizations.
"Today public relations professionals want much more responsibility in their job assignments. We see them acting in such areas as planning, strategy, anticipation of problems, knowledge of business from a true in-depth study of it, organizational and development skills, and increasing management skills. More and more, public relations is being regarded both by management and practitioners as a management and a problem-solving function, as well as a problem-prevention function.
"The chief executive officers of major corporations now have much greater concerns about the image of their companies (and themselves) in the eyes of the public and their employees-to say nothing about how they come across to other corporate presidents, the government, and Wall Street. We are seeing a strong need at the present time for public relations people with excellent understanding of investor relations, and public relations experts who can communicate to the financial community. This is especially true with more and more companies that find themselves in the 'about-to-take-over' position or fighting the 'being-taken-over' position.
"Vice-presidents of public relations are beginning to retire, and companies express the need to fill the slot with broader professionals who can relate effectively to business, government, Wall Street, and educational institutions."
Jean Cardwell continues by answering the question: "What are public relations practitioners seeking from their employers?"
"The primary objective of the public relations pros is that they report directly to the chief executive officers of their companies-at least, that is the belief of the topmost professionals in most companies. 'Having the ear of the CEO' is a thing most public relations people today regard as of utmost importance to their companies and their own jobs. Concurrent with this is the feeling that senior management should understand and value public relations for the counsel that public relations people can give them. In both instances, traditionally public relations professionals have scored less than high points. But this is improving slowly.
"It is felt by most top pros in public relations that their function should have greater visibility within their own organizations. How sad it is to see many topflight professionals who are 'hidden' from the very people whom they can best assist, often until it is too late for them to take a really effective step in solving major problems when they arise.
"Another strong feeling among the pros is that the position of corporate public relations practitioner should not wind up as a 'dead end' function. Many believe that the vice-president of public relations can rise to senior vice-president, executive vice-president, and even president.
"At lower levels, it is felt that the public relations practitioner should be given the opportunity to learn all phases of the subject, rather than just being responsible for a single job, as for example, press relations or employee communications. They should be given the chance to learn the widest possible managerial skills and to advance to officership in their companies or agencies. Everyone I deal with believes that ultimately they should be given a part in the policy-making decisions of their organizations."
As to future trends in public relations employment, Jean Belter writes:
"As vice-presidents of public relations continue to retire in the next five to ten years, they will be replaced by broad-based generalists who are more familiar with Wall Street and Washington. These will be professionals who are also excellent managers. Public relations pros will increase their recognition of the importance of learning management and organizational development skills. Many more MBA's will be hired by public relations departments, most obviously in corporations, but increasingly in associations and agencies. Conversely, more active public relations professionals working today will be seen enrolling in MBA programs as evening-school students.
"More corporate public relations departments will hire public relations advisers who can effectively guide them in public and social policy.
"As agency heads retire and internal personnel replace them, problems will arise in not having enough professional strength at the middle levels. Agency business will continue to grow, and the need for expert talent will be crucial. Their salaries will obviously have to catch up to corporate salary levels if agencies are to retain their valuable assets: their public relations pros. But agency practitioners must assume a more businesslike profile (rather than the razzle-dazzle attitudes many now have) if they wish to advance or find placement in fields other than agencies.
"Summing up, there will be a greater interest on the part of both agencies and corporations in the public relations professionals who truly have an understanding of business practice- in depth."