New Study Shows PR in Transition from Old School to New School

GAPWhether it’s more focus on measurement or a broadening of the functions included in PR and Communications departments, the practice of public relations continues to evolve.

Since 2002, the USC Annenberg Strategic Communication and Public Relations Center has tracked that evolution in its Generally Accepted Practices (GAP) study.

This year’s GAP report — the Center’s seventh — provides a wealth of information shared by senior communicators from U.S. corporations, government agencies and non-profits. With data gathered during the fourth quarter of 2011, it’s a current source for benchmarking your own company’s programs and budgets, as well as staying on top of emerging trends. 

Some takeaways:

  • Even in a tough economy, PR budgets have increased since the last study, which was released in 2010.
  • Corporations report an increase in the amount of their budgets devoted to measurement and evaluation — from 4 percent two years ago to 9 percent.
  • The most successful organizations measure outcomes, such as the impact of PR programs on the bottom line, as opposed to outputs, such as media impressions or advertising equivalency.
  • Nearly 60 percent of PR and Communications departments report to the C-suite, which is a reflection of today’s increasingly transparent, communication-intensive environment.
  • More PR and Communications departments have responsibility for social media monitoring or participation than in the previous biennial study.
  • In the realm of social media, most respondents say their organizations have mostly abandoned older tools like wikis and virtual worlds. The social media tools predominating today are social networking sites, search engine optimization and online video.
  • In addition to growing social media responsibilities, the PR/Communications field is increasingly adding Internal Communications and Customer Relations responsibilities.

For more key findings and additional details on the state of the PR industry, read the full report.

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About creativeconsiderations

Christine Sullivan is a communications strategist with expertise in communications planning, writing and content development, and executive communications. She can be reached at
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