JOHN HILL, FOUNDER, HILL AND KNOWLTON, INC.4
Public relation is clearly emerging as a management function of significant dimension-far more so than the publicity/public relations function of twenty years ago. The rise of issues such as the environment, energy, the impact of technology, and the rapid growth of multinational organizations makes public relations not just a local, but a global industry. PR's task in the coming years will be to help coordinate and harmonize objectives and values of many dynamic, diverse, and sometimes conflicting groups in this larger world perspective.
It's obvious that the PR field is hungry for creative people who possess a sense of what's happening now and what is likely to happen tomorrow. Those who can speculate prudently about future trends and anticipate the organization's needs with strong and viable solutions will be immediate and valued assets. Futures research is viewed as one of the most vital and exciting PR specialties, but it also goes on continuously throughout the performance of all PR functions. Today's issues will continue into tomorrow. Government and investor relations will become increasingly important corporate public relations challenges as government intervention, tightening regulations, and the whole area of financing come under closer scrutiny. Energy, unemployment, environmental pollution, and inflation are all matters that will cause tension and frustration, and generate repercussions inside all organizations.
What are the implications of all this for public relations? What are some innovations the jobseeker can anticipate and address?
First, companies will move from a defensive posture regarding public and government pressure, and will emphasize communication and cooperation. The more farsighted among them already do. Government relations, a rapidly expanding area now, will grow even more, because it is the channel through which organizations can monitor and influence legislation. Effective government monitoring will also enable companies to anticipate, and therefore better cope with, the forces challenging them. Business and other institutional leaders will address environmental, economic, and other public issues head-on. The public relations executive on all these fronts will be in a top management position and will be increasingly involved in the policy-making structure. He will be a generalist capable of integrating diverse knowledge and information. Academic backgrounds for people entering PR will shift from the traditional PR breeding ground of journalism to include history, law, business, political science, and economics.
The publicity function of public relations will be moved to marketing and sales. Corporate public relations will focus on policy information, issues, constituencies, and management. The legal and public relations departments will join forces more and more. International growth of the multinational corporation also will generate greater and greater needs for comprehensive public relations services at every level, from the local to the global.
To meet these evolving issues and future imperatives, PR people will need to develop new skills. Research will become more important and will broaden to include surveys and polls, white papers, and statistics on stockholders, consumers, employees, and others. Also, research will become a standard tool used for decision-making as well as for supporting and justifying actions to the public. Research on the social and environmental impact of company policy will become a central concern.
THE CREDIBILITY ISSUE
Presently, the general public has a rather negative mood toward large institutions in general and private enterprise in particular. PR's task in the future is to build a new trust among its publics for the organization it represents.
There is little doubt the public is suspicious of business motives and rationales. It has lost confidence in business as a benefactor, and views it instead as the enemy who sacrifices the environment and public health and safety to bottom-line considerations. After incidents such as the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, it is no wonder the public is up in arms, and that this growing mistrust of business is at the top of the list of business problems.
The problem of low credibility in business often is attributed to several factors.
1. Its own mistakes are certainly partly responsible for its present image. Faulty products, safety problems, misleading advertising, and questionable business tactics have all been given heavy exposure by the media, and business has suffered.
2. The present period is one in which many institutions are under criticism. Education, government, churches, and the medical and legal professions are all defending themselves against negative images. To some extent the loss of confidence in business is part of this larger trend.
3. Economic ignorance is offered as a reason: Business asserts that public doubt is increased because the public simply does not know enough about how business functions and where profits really come from. Business has long recognized this as a problem, but concedes its efforts to counter it have not been effective.
It's interesting to see how business, in the words of some of its outstanding leaders, confronts the issue of credibility.
It [business credibility] starts at the top with an attitude, a set of standards that demands excellence and integrity. You must insist that they be followed. I am going to read . . . from our international corporate code of principles and conduct. It summarizes what we try to do, and it applies as well overseas:
The company believes in the maintenance of a single high standard of integrity and ethical business conduct in all countries in which it does business around the world. This will apply to uniformity of product quality, honesty and good taste in advertising, fair treatment of employees, openness and good faith in dealing with customers, suppliers, governments, investors, and all others with whom the company comes into contact.
WALTER A. HAAS, JR., CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD, LEVI STRAUSS & CO.5
It has become almost an article of faith that the poor image of business is due to the failure of business to educate the public and government. It has been supposed (or suggested) that restrictive legislation could be avoided by doing a better job of economic education. Would that be done if the solution were so simple? There is obviously a need for economic education and my company, like many others, is making an effort in this direction. But to consider this as anything resembling a total solution to the problem strikes me as a serious over simplification and, perhaps, as a beautiful illustration of where the real problem lies.
As a general rule, pressure for legislation or regulation arises because there is a perceived problem-either genuine or otherwise. When business adamantly opposes all solutions proposed by other sectors of the society, this is translated to mean that business denies that any problem exists. Well, since the public, and hence the government, believes that there is a problem, the business position simply is not acceptable and business loses credibility. At the same time, if business proposes solutions only from the selfish viewpoint of their effect on business, and those solutions are viewed as unacceptable by other affected groups, then business is regarded as unfeeling, greedy or taking a public-be-damned attitude.
FREDERICK S. WELSH, VICE-PRESIDENT, CORPORATE RELATIONS, EASTMAN KODAK COMPANY6
Let me talk for just a moment about economic credibility in the area of reporting financial results. The American people still believe that profitability of American companies and corporations is, depending on whose reports you read, variously estimated from 27 to 45 percent; I believe 45 percent came out of a survey of college students not long ago. I think that it can be said validly that the economic education of chief executive officers may have been sadly neglected in a communications sense because, time after time, we all see reports by companies that express their profitability this quarter against last quarter or against the same quarter a year ago-or this year against last year expressed in percentages. Is it any wonder that the great American public, reading only the headlines, derives profitability figures for companies in the order of 27 to 45 percent? That's what we tell them when we report our financial results. Our profits were up 32 percent compared with 1974. These are the headlines that are read by millions who happen to glance at the business or financial page.
I think economic education may very well be needed within the corporate boardrooms themselves in order to understand what they are doing to themselves.
ARTHUR W. COWLES, VICE-PRESIDENT, EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT, KOPPERS COMPANY7
It is clear that rebuilding the credibility of major institutions presents a challenging task for PR.
PUBLIC RELATIONS AS A JOB AND HOW TO GET IT
We've established that public relations are expanding to worldwide proportions. It isn't surprising, therefore, to learn that the United States Labor Department's Occupational Outlook Handbook (Washington, DC: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bulletin 2075, March 1980) predicts that employment opportunities in the PR field will increase rapidly through the mid-1980s.
Because of this, the field is wide open to people of almost all ages, skills, and backgrounds. The purpose of this chapter is to give you a frame of reference for assessing your own interests, skills, and background, including your education, to see how and where they fit into PR. It also offers specifics on the status of women in the field, and salaries and entry-level positions for both first-time jobseekers and those looking at PR as a second career.
The Many Hats of PR- Which Is Yours
We have already discussed different steps performed in the public relations process, and different specialties for handling the various publics, but here's the official word from public relation's own trade association, the Public Relations Society of America, Inc. (PRSA). Their files yielded much of the information used in this guide and they can be a splendid resource for you if you're going to pursue a career in public relations. You can look them up in the Associations section of this book.
One of their brochures, Careers in Public Relations, lists eight principal areas of PR work. Most positions in the field involve one or more of these functions. We have provided excerpts describing these functions below. Remember, these are general descriptions only. Specific examples are given later when we discuss consumer affairs, government relations, and so on.
By checking this list against your own interests, you will get an idea of the areas of PR where you can concentrate your attention. If you can match your area of interest with an organization you like from those listed, you have already done some of the hardest work in getting a promising job search under way.
1. Programming: Programming involves analyzing problems and opportunities, defining goals and the publics, and recommending and planning activities. It may include budgeting and assignment of responsibilities to the appropriate people, including non-public relations personnel. For example, an organization's president or executive director is often a key figure in public relations activities.
2. Relationships: Successful public relations people develop skill in personally gathering information from management, from colleagues in their organizations, and from external sources. Through continually evaluating what they learn, they formulate and gain approval for recommendations from their managements. Many public relations activities require working with and sometimes through other functions, including personnel, legal, and marketing staffs. The practitioner who learns to be persuasive with others will be most effective. Public relations people also represent their organizations. Sometimes they are an official representative to a trade or professional association. But in all their relationships with others including people in industry groups, regulatory agencies and government, educational institutions, and the general public , public relations personnel are at work on behalf of their organizations.
3. Writing and editing: Since the public relations worker is often trying to reach large groups of people, the tool most often used is the printed word. Examples of its use are found in reports, news releases, booklets, speeches, film scripts; trade magazine articles, product information and technical material, employee publications, newsletters, shareholder reports, and other management communications directed to both organization personnel and external groups. A sound, clear style of writing, which effectively communicates, is necessary for public relations work.
4. Information: Setting up channels to distribute material to appropriate newspaper, broadcast, general, and trade publication editors is a normal public relations activity. Developing and maintaining contact with them with a view toward enlisting their interest in publishing an organization's news and features is also a usual function. This requires knowledge of how newspapers and other media operate the areas of specialization of publications, and the interests of individual editors. Competition is keen for the attention of editors and broadcasters who have a limited amount of space and time at their disposal. Although ideas are accepted on the basis of news and other readership value, an ability to develop relationships of mutual respect and cooperation with the press can be useful to both the practitioner and the newsman.
5. Production: Brochures, special reports, films, and multimedia programs are important ways of communicating. The public relations practitioner need not be an expert in art, layout, typography, and photography, but background knowledge of preparation techniques is needed for intelligent planning and supervision of their use.
6. Special events: News conferences, convention exhibits and special showings, anniversary celebrations, contest and award programs, tours, and special meetings make up a partial list of special events used to gain attention and acceptance of groups of people. They involve careful planning and coordination, attention to detail, preparation of special booklets, publicity, and reports.
7. Speaking: Public relations work often requires skill in face-to-face communication. Duties may include finding appropriate platforms, the preparation of speeches for others, and the delivery of speeches. The person who can effectively address individuals and groups will enjoy an advantage over those whose abilities are limited to writing.
8. Research and evaluation: The first activity undertaken by a public relations practitioner is always fact-gathering. This can be accomplished through personal interviews, review of library materials, and informal conversations. It can also involve the use of survey techniques. Some firms specialize in designing and conducting opinion research. After a program is completed, the public relations practitioner should study its results and make an evaluation about the program's implementation and effectiveness. More and more managements expect both research and evaluation from their public relations advisers.
Education, Skills, Background
To get an idea of the qualities most desirable in a PR person, the Public Relations Society of America chapter for the San Francisco Bay Area9 recently asked ninety members about their hiring practices and what qualities they felt the ideal public relations candidate should have. The following general profile emerged:
1. A four-year undergraduate degree; major is not significant.
2. Courses in news writing, public relations, business, social sciences.
3. Good speaking and writing skills.
4. Some previous PR work experience.
5. Active participation in the network of public relations in the area.*
* As you probably know by now, most good PR jobs are not advertised in the media. The advantages of making contacts and working in the PR network can't be overstated. Techniques for networking are in Chapter 3 and (he information you'll need to get started is found in the Information Center of this book.
Remember, this is the ideal candidate, and this does not necessarily mean the entry-level person. This profile was culled from people hiring newcomers as well as experienced personnel. Nevertheless, it does give a good general picture of what PR employers look for.
Most of today's public relations people were not specifically educated for their career. They come from backgrounds in communications, and tend more to be graduates of self-teaching and on-the-job training. In 1973, PRSA established the Commission on Public Relations Education. After an examination of the state of the art and of future needs, the commission revealed a dearth of PR professionals capable of functioning at higher executive levels. Liberal arts education is now recommended with emphasis on courses in communications and public relations. Further, the commission suggests that for people interested in making public relations a lifetime career, a master's degree and perhaps even a doctorate in the field would be beneficial. Rea Smith of the PRSA and Dr. Daniel Hirshfield of Union Carbide, who are later interviewed in this book, offer differing opinions on this subject. Their comments give jobseekers something to consider.
Courses in PR are given through many schools of journalism. The PRSA brochure, Public Relations Sequences and Courses in U.S. Colleges and Universities (1979) lists these. This publication names all schools in the U.S. offering doctoral, master's, and undergraduate programs in public relations, as well as schools giving only one or two PR courses.
Core courses in public relations at the undergraduate level include: an introduction to PR principles, history, and practice; publicity, media, and campaigns; PR case problems; and internship in the public relations department of an organization. In addition, courses in product (layout, design, editing), management, business, and behavioral sciences are suggested. Communications expertise, especially in speaking and writing, is basic. Qualifications in economics, politics, and international studies are also important if you want to specialize in investor, government, or international relations. The PRSA's brochure A Design for Public Relations Education (1975) gives course recommendations at the M.A. and Ph.D. levels.
More emphasis is also being placed on continuing education for working professionals. The PRSA sponsors seminars, workshops, and conferences, and more adult education sources are offering programs in the PR area.
The previous information is of most direct value to you if you are a high school or college student contemplating PR as a career. If you are thinking of PR as a second career, or entering it from an academic background, you'll want to focus on the skills and experiences you already have and that are transferable to PR work. Some core courses in PR as described above can fill in the gaps.
TRANSFERABLE SKILLS AND BACKGROUND
You might look again at the list of publics earlier in this chapter and the section "The Challenging Future of PR" as reminders of the directions PR is taking and which ones lit you. We've already said that PR is looking for people with broad interests; it's also looking for expertise in special areas, especially those of active national interest.
General Skills Valuable in PR
Whether you are looking for your first job or changing your career, here are general skills useful in PR so you can identify those you recognize as already among your credentials.
" Ability to investigate and do research.
" Sensitivity to sociological, political, and economic factors.
" Ability to analyze trends.
" Abilities in group dynamics, in relating to people.
" Ability to read everything and synthesize information as it applies to your organization or public.
" Proficiency in speaking and writing quickly, clearly, and effectively.
" Ability to analyze and teach complex ideas and terms to the general public.
" An understanding of the media, particularly television.
For skills you have that might be more closely related to a PR specialty, see the detailed descriptions given on pages 40-53.
EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES IN PUBLIC RELATIONS FOR WOMEN
Business Week headlined public relations as " 'The Velvet Ghetto' of Affirmative Action"-the place where companies compensate for the lack of women in top management positions. By placing them in PR departments, companies manage to fulfill affirmative action goals. Another reason for loading up PR departments with women, Business Week continues, is their availability: "Over the next 20 years more than half the PR labor force might well be women."10
Women in public relations have traditionally been restricted to women's interest areas: home, food, furnishings, and fashions. Though times are changing, the number of women in corporate areas such as communications, financial investor relations, insurance, and government relations still remains limited.
A recent article in Cosmopolitan magazine11 stated that current estimates of women managers in public relations are about 30 percent of the estimated 75,000 professionals in the field. The latest PRSA roster indicates that 27 percent of their memberships are women, as compared with 9 percent in the late sixties.
The same Cosmopolitan article also featured discussions with women executives in public relations. Betty Colt, executive vice president of Ruder and Finn (one of the top ten public relations firms in the country) is quoted as citing the need for women in counseling positions and in the role of advising clients. She said, ". . . there aren't enough women working for corporations at a level where the board chairman would call on them directly for help nor are there enough female conceptualiszers, enough female innovators in the business. The demand is definitely there for women to do the work that's significant-we've just got to recruit them. . . ."
In September, 1980, pr reporter (Vol. 23, No. 38), a weekly newsletter for public relations, public affairs, and communications professionals, published its sixteenth annual salary survey. With the 1980 median salary at $35,000, up $4000 from $31,000 in 1979, public relations practitioners are just about keeping pace with last year's 13°/o rate of inflation. In Canada, where the 1980 median salary rose to $33,000 from $31,000, the situation is much the same. Salaries are highest in the Northeast ($38,000 median) and lowest in the South ($31,000 median). Table 1-1 is taken from the 1980 survey, listing median salaries by industry groups as well as salary ranges from entry level to the top.
You can start your career in public relations several ways, in several settings. First, in any setting, you can be a trainee, working in a clerical function as an assistant. The apprenticeship system works well in this field, especially if you can find a real pro or "master" to work for as your entry position. You get the benefit of both the network of contacts in which the master moves, and all of the skill and experience that constitutes mastery. Be prepared for all the menial tasks that go with entry-level work such as typing, filing, telephoning, handling deliveries, and so on. If the organization is large, try as much as possible to train with someone in an area that already interests you-consumer affairs, government relations, program planning, analysis and research. You will find out if the area isn't for you early enough to change without going backwards financially, and if the position you choose does interest you, you'll have a fine start for advancement.
A writing position also offers an excellent starting point. Writing communications skills are critical in PR. Furthermore, the Department of Labor foresees three times as many jobs for you in PR as in newspapers if you're a journalism graduate, despite the shift to business backgrounds at higher levels of the PR field. If you have already shown interest and talent in this area, or have any experience, put together a portfolio of anything you have published, whether from high school or college papers or special-interest journals, and have it with you when you knock on doors. It's the combination of "chemistry" and skills that wins success. If you have the interest but haven't expressed it, take the time to search out limited-budget journals or other publications that are good markets for free copy, where you can place something. Hundreds of these are listed in Writers' Market (Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest, 1980) and other directories given at the back of this book. To be able to show a short feature you've published in Retail Week (380 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10017) is better than saying, "I want to try writing." If you're a student, you can work on this before graduation, and even obtain internships at publications to accumulate evidence of work done on the job.
Finally, you can work in a small organization, where you will be a jack-of-all-trades doing everything: typing, answering phones, filing, delivering, and writing. This gives you a chance to work at all the tasks of PR, which is good experience in moving on to greater responsibility in an area that may interest you.
Settings for PR positions include: corporations, which we discuss at length in this book; institutions, such as hospitals, schools, and trade associations that have an active and ongoing PR involvement; public relations consulting firms, where projects come up every day that cross the spectrum of PR activity; and nonprofit institutions that have intensive programs. (These positions are the ones you are most likely to encounter. Here in the all-around training of a small office, you'll be writing the bulletins and brochures, calling the news media, answering the phones, and making the coffee. Nonprofit institutions are always hungry for help, and jobs are often available with them when they aren't in other PR areas. Because of this, they have been first steps in many a successful PR career.)
GETTING THE POSITION: NETWORKING OR NEWSPAPER ADS?
The newspaper ads are always there and now that you have some insight into the field, you can at least pick your way through them with some confidence. As we've pointed out, however, if you want to start in PR at the highest possible level, networking has proven to be the best technique. The San Francisco survey just discussed indicated this. By far the greatest numbers of recent college graduates are hired through the PR network in every city. You can start participating in this network even before you finish college by attending meetings of the nearest chapter of the PRSA (there are 89 student chapters), described under Associations at the back of this book. The strategies presented in Chapter 3 on networking will give you the techniques you need to use for optimal effectiveness in your job search.
If you find yourself at mid-career feeling trapped and unfulfilled in your work, consider the possibilities in the many facets of PR. As you can see, you can transfer many skills from a variety of backgrounds into PR specialties without having to start over. You don't really have to stay in the box you are in.
For instance, if you have any legal or political activity in your back-ground, public affairs departments need people like you because of the growing complexity of government regulations and the sophistication of today's consumer. If your background is academic, issues analysis and information gathering on the political, cultural, technological, and ecological changes that affect specific firms present opportunities for you.
If you are a woman re-entering the work force, you should be aware that during child-rearing years, many women develop considerable skills in activities that would make them effective PR directors for smaller, community-based organizations. Turning out press releases, organizing volunteers, creating brochures, even fund raising are not difficult for anyone knowledgeable about the local community and able to write effectively. Public speaking is an asset always in demand-it's not easy to find adequate, much less better than average, representation, so if you speak well and persuasively before groups, capitalize on it. Consumer affairs departments will grow rapidly in the future in many organizations. As critical and experienced consumers, women have much to offer in this field. The work that many local volunteer organizations are doing in consumer advocacy programs makes an excellent training ground for moving into consumer affairs departments.
If you are able to transfer some professional skills into your new job in PR, you should be able to start well above the opening salary range for first-time jobseekers-somewhere between $13,000 and $16,000, depending on what you can offer and how it fits with the organization's needs. At the very least, you should move forward rapidly once you know the ropes, since your life experience will then work to your advantage.
Public Relations Professional Development Matrix
Kalman B. Druck and Ray E. Hiebert have outlined career levels in public relations and requisite skills for each level based on their view of the PR process as involving three distinct areas:
(1) management,(2)communications, and (3) knowledge of various publics. This matrix, Table 1-2, offers a good description of each area as well as providing you with a check list for evaluating your knowledge and skills.
ORGANIZATION AND STRUCTURE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS UNITS
Public relations organize it to get its jobs done. The profession has expanded so rapidly in recent years that these units and structures vary from company to company, but there's enough similarity so that generalizations can still be made. They should help you steer your way through the maze and understand who does what.
By far the biggest challenge is the titles. The following is a list showing the astonishing variety and scope of names and titles. Some of them you will recognize as neutral, all-purpose forms, such as manager and supervisor. Others will be new. Many have evolved overnight when a new task or client appeared on the horizon and someone not only had to be put in charge, but given a title, too. They still boil down to the duties we described in "The Many Hats of PR" and the PR specialties listed previously. This list cannot be complete, as new designations are constantly being created.
Executive Vice President
Senior Vice President
The international relations unit communicates the organization's story to the international community. Responsibilities include: preparing information that speaks to the foreign constituencies within their own cultural framework.
Press (or media) relations: The press relations unit plays an important role in communications between the organization and members of the media. Responsibilities include: preparation of press releases and other statements; scheduling company interviews with reporters (press conferences); and generally participating in all meetings dealing with the media.
Companies combine these units and vary their scope in a number of ways. For example, government relations may be considered a marketing function with emphasis on winning government contracts, rather than on communication; investor relations may be handled by the finance department instead of by public relations, and so on.
Chapter 4 of this guide lists dozens of companies and other organizations using PR so you can get an idea of the size and involvement of PR departments in operation. With the increasing complexity of PR tasks, the need for specialized units multiplies. Most often they are organized by publics which means they are equated with or named after, the group or public their work is geared toward. Here we list the major units and what they do; detailed descriptions are given in the Information Center of this book (Chapter 4).
1. Consumer affairs: The consumer affairs unit is in charge of communications with customers. Responsibilities include: handling complaints and inquiries; preparing educational literature and programs; serving as liaison with activist groups.
2. Government relations: The primary function of the government relations unit is to make contact with legislators and staff people at all levels of government. Responsibilities include: telling the organization's story to legislators and to regulatory agencies; interpreting, evaluating, and affecting legislation that could have an impact on the organization (lobbying).
3. Investor (or stockholder) relations: The purpose of the investor relations unit is communication with the individual and professional investors (brokers). Responsibilities include: preparing all reports and statements, as well as annual and interim reports; handling inquiries; arranging the annual meeting; maintaining positive relationships with investors; and coordinating contacts with management enables a direct flow of communication, but on the other hand, it is also seen as giving the CEO too much control and consequently too much work or responsibility.
4. Committee: A third structural possibility is to have a committee that coordinates all public relations units. Membership on these committees rarely exceeds ten executives; these are usually heads of various external activities throughout the corporation. The Bank of America employs such a committee, consisting of six senior vice presidents. This team is responsible for administering all PR sponsored by the bank.
5. Regional: Regional representation occurs in companies that have large divisions in various geographical locations and where most of the PR activity is at these divisional levels. The home office usually maintains a central corporate unit.
6. Various units: Finally, there is a middle ground approach in which one executive has responsibility for a number of company publics while other publics are coordinated by other executives in the organization. For example consumer affairs and investor relations will frequently report as separate units.
Executives: Their Roles and Responsibilities
Adherence to company policy and objectives in PR activity is essential. Unity of action throughout an organization is accomplished through coordination by the PR department. The PR executive is therefore the person responsible for interpreting company policy to everyone inside and outside the firm.
The top person in any organization provides the inspiration and the point of view that guides development and progress. Any information you can find about the future plans of the chief executive officer will help you determine whether your philosophy and aims will coincide with those of the organization. The creativity and leadership of the CEO can be glimpsed through various PR media, such as consumer affairs and community relations bulletins as well as annual reports, or the company's own statement of PR objectives if it issues one. The chief executive officer's commitment to public relations is crucial to the effectiveness of the function. The CEO needs to be in tune and empathetic with the issues that are affecting his industry and needs the vision to foresee emerging problems in order to plan ahead to meet them. As the personification of the company, the chief executive officer is PR spokesman extraordinaire.
THE PR EXECUTIVE
Public relations executives have traditionally come out of journalism and public relations backgrounds. Today, however, there is an increasing number with law and business backgrounds, as illustrated by the poll of 170 executives in Figure 1-2. Because PR executives must have skills in many areas as well as a thorough knowledge of their companies, they tend to have been company employees for a long time.
The PR executive typically has three major roles: counsel, service, and control. As counsel, they act as internal consultants to other units as well as to the chief executive officer. In giving service, they conceive and implement programs for the various publics. The third role, control, specifies the executive's involvement in the formulation of policy and guidelines. The concept of control ensures consistent adherence to and interpretations of company policy.
The PR department organizes itself, in most instances, around specific publics. Placement on the organizational chart usually follows one of five patterns: all units headed by an executive who reports to the CEO; the CEO directly responsible for all PR units; a PR committee coordinating all activities; or, in companies of many divisions, PR done at the regional level. A fifth approach consists of all but a few units, usually consumer affairs and investor relations, being coordinated by one executive. The others report independently to the CEO.
The CEO is the most important PR person in the company. As he personifies everything the company stands for, he is the ultimate spokesman. The top PR executive, whose job is to coordinate, interpret, and communicate at all levels, usually comes from a journalism background but more recently from law or business.