Study: Executives don’t recognize the value PR can offer

Two in 10 top bosses don’t know what PR stands for, and as many as 40% don’t believe it can enhance their business. Here’s how public relations pros can enlighten and persuade them.

Communicators know the value PR brings an organization, but that insight isn’t making it to some top decision-makers.

A new study from Releasd reveals a chasm between what PR pros can offer an organization and what most leaders believe PR can accomplish.

The study polled over 300 leaders from a range of industries, all in senior roles within their organizations. The results show that many executives either aren’t aware of PR or place shockingly low value on PR’s potential to boost the bottom line.

Two in every 10 leaders (20%) don’t know that PR stands for “public relations.”


You know the problem is bad if many leaders don’t even know what the shorthand PR stands for. (It’s public relations, everyone.)

The downside of shorthand

This data reveals a branding problem for the PR industry and highlights the dangers of using jargon or industry slang when describing your function and value to outside clients or stakeholders. However, most industry pros could be forgiven for thinking that everyone knows what PR stands for—right?

Perhaps the knowledge gap also illustrates another industry trend: PR pros are trying to rebrand the industry. In recent years, PR has taken on a negative connotation for many consumers who assume these corporate spin doctors are warping the truth. Some PR pros are also trying to find a moniker that better encapsulates the full breadth of their functions.

The problem doesn’t have an easy answer. Look no further than the debate over whether PR pros should call themselves publicists, or whether that title is limiting.

In whatever way you decide to brand yourself, make sure you explain your role clearly to a potential partner, because chances are they have no idea what you do.

Which leaders are least aware of the part PR can play in an organization? The study shows management-level roles have the greatest distance to travel.

This should be a focus for PR pros, because the research also shows that as awareness increases, so does a favorable opinion about the enterprise.  Some 80% of executives who have a good understanding of PR also believe that PR offers good value to businesses.

The report’s authors contend this offers a big opportunity for PR pros.

“Whilst the conversation has typically centered around measurement and metrics, this research, the first of its kind, shows that many execs simply do not have a good understanding of what the comms function does in the first place,” says Richard Benson, CEO of Releasd. “Luckily, the ones that do understand it tend to value it, too. This presents a huge opportunity for PR teams willing to focus on education as well as evaluation. Ironically, we need to do a much better job of PRing ourselves.”

A crucial issue

Addressing this issue shouldn’t be put on the back burner. The research suggests that as many as 40% of executives don’t believe PR offers good value to businesses—and that’s a huge problem for communicators looking to win contracts and rise into leadership roles.

However, there is good news for PR pros. As executives become more educated on public relations and what it can do for their organizations, they are likelier to see it offers great value.

How can PR pros help make their case?

Measurement should be a key focus for all communicators, but PR pros should also not be shy about singing their own praises. Enter awards programs and tout your case studies—that’s great—but it’s time for PR pros to get creative in raising the profile of their industry.

If you run a big PR firm, maybe it’s time to write an op-ed or contribute a guest post to print or online publications that target the business community. Don’t forget to use your social media channels and other online platforms to reach new audiences.

Most important, don’t just toss out your PR credentials and expect everyone to know what they mean. When it comes to proving your value, don’t let your work speak for itself. Master metrics to underscore your worth.

How are you evangelizing for the PR community, PR Daily readers?

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One Response to “Study: Executives don’t recognize the value PR can offer”

    Marcel says:

    I have liked the way you approach the topic
    Ofcourse, some executives are not aware of the crucial role of Pr but iti’s .high time they recognize their contribution!

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