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Want to boost your company’s PR power? Report to the C Suite, study says

By Jason Mudd

C-suiteThere’s a shakeup afoot in the public relations and marketing departments of the nation’s most successful companies. According to a recent study by the Council of Public Relations Firms (CPRF), PR professionals at companies appearing on Fortune’s Most Admired list report not to the marketing department, but to the “C Suite,” that is, CEO, COO and/or chairman. In fact, 63 percent of Fortune 500 companies, those raking in $6 billion in annual revenues, have their PR departments reporting directly to executive offices, as opposed to 42 percent of Fortune 20,000 companies, or those making less than $100 million.

And there’s more: Researchers uncovered an unmistakable pattern when comparing PR and cultural characteristics of Fortune’s most admired companies with others of similar size. They found that PR departments at Fortune companies by and large:

  • have larger staffs – an average of 25;

  • use public relations firms and assign an agency of record;

  • maintain larger public relations budgets ($8.5 million compared to the next largest category, which devotes $2.2 million to PR);

  • receive greater support from senior management;

  • measure public relations’ effectiveness through crisis avoidance and mitigation;

  • and are perceived as more ethical, honest and proactive, particularly when it comes to crisis preparedness and preemption.

Giving PR a seat at the proverbial table pays off in easily quantifiable and qualifiable ways, according to a recent survey titled “The Value of Corporate Reputation.” CEOs surveyed say they increasingly are recognizing that their companies’ PR-pumped reputations are generating “hard” measures of business success. Among them are low employee turnovers, higher stock prices and greater credibility during crisis times. Seventy-seven percent of the CEOs responding say their companies’ PR efforts boosted sales and 61 percent say they’re able to attract better talent.

Even those companies that boast a few dozen in-house PR professionals see value in hiring outside PR agencies of record. Why? Survey respondents say outside firms provide strategic marketing insight, help offset the limitations of internal PR staff, offer an objective point of view, are less expensive and easier than hiring more staff and are able to quantify results.

Researchers with the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Strategic Public Relations Center, which conducted the study, examined the public relations practices of 328 corporations across the United States. Companies were categorized by revenue, industry and ownership status – 61 percent publicly held, 39 percent privately held. Respondents were grouped into standard Fortune magazine revenue categories according to gross revenues. Twenty-five percent of participants represented Fortune 500 companies, with revenues greater than $6 billion.

For a full copy of the CPRF’s study, visit the organization’s website at www.prfirms.org.

jason-mudd-axia-pr-1 – Jason Mudd, APR, is CEO of Axia Public Relations. He is an Emmy Award-winning accredited public relations practitioner, speaker, author and entrepreneur. His public relations portfolio includes work for established national and emerging brands such as American Airlines, Budweiser, Dave & Buster’s, Brightway Insurance, Florida Blue, H&R Block, Hilton, HP, It Works!, Miller Lite, New York Life, Pizza Hut, Ray Charles, Southern Comfort, Verizon and more. Connect with Jason on Twitter at @jasonmudd9 and Axia Public Relations at @axiapr. Be sure to tweet and share your thoughts below. We’ll read and respond to each of them.

photo credit: World Travel & Tourism Council via photopin cc

Topics: public relations, PR tips

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