Survey reveals future trends in EU public relations

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Corporate communication is of growing importance to companies and will become the most important area of communication management within three years, according to new research from the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (Euprera).

The trans-national survey, led by University of Leipzig Professor Dr. Ansgar Zerfass and released on 27 September, is the first of its kind and was based on interviews with a sample of 1,100 highly-experienced professionals from 22 countries. 

Marketing, branding and consumer communication are currently the most important fields, but this is expected to change within the next three years. The researchers predict that coping with the digital revolution, linking business strategies and communication, and maintaining trust will be the most relevant issues between now and 2010. 

Online and social media are becoming increasingly influential means of communicating with stakeholders without the need to go through the mass media, and thus press and media relations are losing ground compared with interactive, online communication methods, the researchers found. 

This is especially true for young people, with whom the researchers say a “complete new set of competencies and instruments” is required, including “cross-media concepts” and “real-life interaction” such as word-of-mouth campaigns to complement the high-end technology. 

Meanwhile, the fastest-growing aspects of communication are internal communication, community relations and corporate social responsibility, the survey revealed. 

Surprisingly, the researchers also found that only a third of professionals measure the economic impact of their campaigns. PR evaluation, including linking business strategy and communication, is of the utmost importance but widely neglected in the EU. 

Furthermore, consultants are too concentrated on media production and underestimate the value of personal and nonverbal communication, and PR professionals do not recognise the value of innovation enough, the research found. 

More generally, the survey reveals that the field of public relations is growing significantly in Europe, with new jobs and a 14% growth in the budgets of communication departments and agencies expected in 2008. 

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