Monday, March 16, 2015

Why Are There Not More PR Pros on Nonprofit Boards?

I have often noticed and admired PR professionals who serve on the boards of area nonprofits. This has, as we PR people would say, a "mutual benefit." PR pros do this as a part of their PR role of community relations. If in an agency, it's a form of new business development because of the networking with other board members. The organization also benefits from PR counsel at the board and executive level.
But I have also noticed that a lot of nonprofit organizations do not have PR professionals on their boards. So I did what academics do: I launched a study on the subject.
The results of my study is now a chapter in a recently published book:  Routledge Research in Public Relations: Public Relations in the Nonprofit Sector. My chapter, “PR Capacity on Nonprofit Boards,” gives insight on the value of having PR professionals serve on nonprofit boards.
Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.11.16 PMI worked with the assistance of the Johnson Center on Philanthropy to put together a list of the executives of the nonprofits in Michigan with more than 1 staff member. Of the 704 on the list, 215 responded.  Their answers to a survey reveal that executives of nonprofit organizations do not view having a PR professional serve on a nonprofit board as a priority, but rather as “nice to have.” 
Most executives in the study claimed that they did not seek out board members with a public relations background. Additionally, nonprofit executives do not have an accurate understanding of public relations as a whole.
Specifically, while a majority (76%) said that communications with stakeholders was a role and capacity sought in board members, only 11% indicated it was the most important board member ability. While 52% said they had at least one board member with PR education or experience, this may be due to the fact that 75% define public relations as “getting the word out.”
Clearly, there is a need for more PR professionals to serve nonprofit organizations at the executive and management level. Part of that service would be to educate nonprofit management about the full role and benefit of public relations as a sophisticated effort in relationship building, with multiple publics.
A summary of the result is found below:

 

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Reading List for People Making Transition to PR

A local broadcast journalist recently contacted me via social media and asked if I could recommend a book on PR because they were considering making the transition into the field.

OK, first of all, never ask a professor to recommend “a” book J But I have to say the instinct is good to do some research and not make assumptions about the field. I have written before on this blog that journalists do have some assets they can carry over into PR: http://gr-pr.blogspot.com/2012/01/assets-laid-off-journalists-can.html But there is also a lot to learn.

So to answer the question, here is a list of several books—and some other resources--by category and some other resources useful to potential and current PR practitioners. This is only partial (I just ordered another book today that is not on this list). So, anyone else who has suggestions feel free to note them in the comments. To be concise I list titles and last names of authors only, but they should be easy to find at any online book site.

Introductory PR Books
There are several introductory PR books used in college courses. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) also has a list of recommended texts for those thinking of studying to take the exam to become accredited in public relations (APR): http://www.praccreditation.org/resources/recommended-texts/index.html . Here are some intro texts that I recommend.
  • THINK Public Relations. By Wilcox, Cameron, Reber and Shin.
  • Today’s PR. By Health and Coombs.
  • PR Strategies and Tactics. By Wilcox and Cameron.
  • The Practice of PR. By Frasier Seitel.
  • Strategic Public Relations: An Audience-Focused Approach. By Diggs and Brown
  • PR: A Values-Driven Approach. By Guth and Marsh.
  • Cultip and Center’s Effective Public Relations. By Broom and Sha. (an update of a classic)
  • This is PR: The Realities of Public Relations. By Newsome, Turk, and Krukeberg.


Research
Research is a fundamental skill of PR professionals. It has to be more than basic interviewing skills that a journalist has. There are several possible texts, but the one standard I would recommend is:
  • Primer on PR Research. By Stacks.


Writing
Journalists know how to write, and how to write in AP style. But PR writing is varied, and includes persuasive as well as objective writing. There are several good books on PR writing.
  • Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques. By Wilcox and Reber.
  • Becoming a Public Relations Writer. By Smith.


History
Every day in the blogosphere I read some bloviating blowhard carry on about some “new” vision in PR. And I grin, shudder, and roll my eyes. If only they knew their history. Several books and resources can help a new practitioner—or a veteran one—understand PR’s past to make better sense of the present and future.

Crisis
Journalists may have reported on a crisis or two, but that does not mean they know how to handle one as a PR person. Several good books on crisis communication offer practical and theoretical information:
  •  Lukaszewski on Crisis Communication. By Lukazsewski  Ongoing Crisis Communication. By Coombs
  • Crisis Communications. By Fearn-Banks
  • Crisis Communication. By Zaremba


Evaluation
Measuring the results of PR efforts has long been advocated and taught, and more recently it has been asked for by clients and management. But it still is not done well or completely by many. There is one great book I would recommend on the subject, this one updated to included social media measurement.
  • Measure What Matters. By Paine


Social Media
Social platforms have been around a while, and lots of people assume they know how to use social media. But using them for personal communication or as a journalist is different than managing social media for a brand or organization. There are many books on social media use, but these are the ones to start with. I’ll also add some online links that are helpful.


Law
There are many areas of law that affect the practice of PR. You don’t need to be a lawyer, but you do need to be informed.
  • Digital Media Law. By Packard
  • Advertising and Public Relatons Law. By Moore, Maye and Collins


Ethics
The PR profession gets a bad rap in the news and entertainment media, as I’ve written about countless times. Ironically, some of the big ethical blunders are made by former journalists. To be a “professional” PR practitioner means to practice ethically. PRSA offers a helpful Code of Ethics http://www.prsa.org/AboutPRSA/Ethics/#.VQIaTSkmXeM . There are also several good books on PR ethics.
  • Ethics in Public Relations. By Fitzpatrick and Bernstein
  • Legal and Ethical Constraints on Public Relations. By Gower
  • It’s Not Just PR. By Coombs and Holladay (This is a good one to give friends who criticize PR as only "spin")

Consider searching major publishers for additional books on topics of interest or relevant to a specific area of practice. For example, here’s a shameless plug for a book I wrote a chapter in called Public Relations in the Nonpfofit Sector http://www.amazon.com/Public-Relations-Nonprofit-Sector-Routledge/dp/1138795089
You can also go directly to publishers and search for public relations books, such as Routledge, which has a special series on public relations: http://www.routledge.com/books/series/RNDPRCR/ ; or Sage http://www.sagepub.com/home.nav  There are several other academic publishers as well.

In addition to books, several academic journals are available for free (vs through association membership or an academic library). These include:


Finally, there are various trade publications and reports that are useful to practitioners (some content requires subscription or membership; but some email newsletters are free):



Whew! That’s a lot. But there’s a lot to know.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Why Do PR Pros Seek Accreditation (APR)? Latest Research

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) established the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) program more than 50 years ago, in 1964. Since then, thousands of PR professionals have worked to earn the designation as a mark of superior PR skills, knowledge and ethical practice.

However, not all practitioners seek the APR credential. In fact, PRSA noticed the percentage of practitioners who are accredited has gone down in recent years. So the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) has encouraged academics to look into the reasons why professionals do and do not make the effort to earn the APR mark of distinction.

Hence, my latest research research with my co-author Dr. Kaye Sweetser of San Diego State University. "Role Enactment, Employer Type, and Pursuit of APR" was just published in the journal Public Relations Review. The journal article is available here. Or, since the journal article is an abbreviated version, you can email me for a full copy.

Or you can just read on here for a summary!

First, a quick explanation of the key terms and variables in the study. "Role enactment" is an academic term that describes the specific role that PR practitioners enact in their jobs. Prior research has boiled these roles down to two: a "technician" is more of an entry-level role focused on tactics; a "manager" may still work on tactics but is more focused on strategy and advising organizational management and making communication decisions vs merely implementing them.

"Employer type" has to do with the fact that PR professionals may work for a corporation, but they could also work in many other contexts. Vast numbers of PR professionals work in non-profits, government agencies, educational institutions, the military, or public relations firms.

We were curious to see if the context in which a practitioner works, or their years of experience or level of authority/status in the organization, were factors in whether or not and why they sought the APR credential.

Results showed that employer type and practitioner role did make a difference. The practical take-aways:

  • Respondents pursued APR mostly for personal satisfaction or to be a better practitioner.
  • Seeking the APR to get a promotion was correlated with younger practitioners.
  • Those in PR for many years were more likely to pursue APR for higher salary than those who transfer in from other fields (who may seek APR for knowledge and legitimacy in their new field).
  • Pursuing APR to gain respect from clients/employer was more common for those in agency, nonprofit, or government/military.
  • Those in a manager role were more likely to pursue APR for higher salary, while those in a technician role were more likely to pursue APR for a job promotion or when seeking a new job.
  • A somewhat counter-intuitive result was that men are significantly more likely than women to be motivated by respect from an employer or client.


This research extended previous studies about the differences between those PR practitioners with and without APR. The UAB may use the results to tailor their promotion of the APR program differently to practitioners, based on their gender, specific role, years of experience, and the type of organization in which they work.