Gerry Corbett, the Public Relations Society of America’s chairman and CEO for 2012, has been a member of the organization for more than 35 years, serving on the PRSA board as well as on a number of committees. PR News sat down with Corbett to discuss PRSA's goals, the challenges of being a PR pro and the latest hot PR topics.
PR News: What are the PRSA’s main priorities for 2012?
Gerry Corbett: First is strengthening the involvement of experienced senior professionals and other critical constituencies that affect our members and industry. Second is engaging and preparing the next generation of PR professionals. And third is employing advanced technology for greater member engagement and efficiency.
PR News: What can PRSA members expect with you in the driver’s seat?
Corbett: Well, we offer many benefits for members. But they don’t always see those benefits. So we’re trying to emphasize the value we bring to them. Members want help on benchmarking research, best practices and how to better tell their stories. They want to be more appreciated within their organizations, and we can help them with that. Also, career management and career development is big among our membership.
PR News: What are the biggest challenges faced by communicators today?
Corbett: The proliferation of channels that we’ve seen over the last five years has created big opportunities for PR pros to utilize their skills. We still have the traditional side of the business, but now companies have the opportunity to act as their own media outlets. This means more content and more strategic planning. A couple of opposing factors have occurred: The financial meltdown hurt our industry’s numbers, but the widening of the broadband pipe has countered that trend. We’re seeing double-digit agency growth now.
PR News: What about PR’s reputation with the general public?
Corbett: I believe these cases of poor management are in the minority. We tend to hear more about the bad cases, and not about the good work being done out there by PR. I’d say it’s an anomaly. I believe PR pros continue to elevate in stature within their organizations. We just don’t see much of the good stuff.
That said, ethics has been a core focus for the PRSA. Survey after survey has shown that our members value the emphasis on ethics—they talk about it constantly. As a group, we speak out often on unethical practices. For example, we’ve done outreach to members and to PR industry at large about the importance of paying interns.
PR News: How can PR take a more strategic role in business—and not just thought of as a media relations arm?
Corbett: Lots of organizations are already there. It’s the counsel from the PR pro that is really making the difference. Organizations are recognizing PR’s value, particularly in world of great bandwidth. The fact is that companies no longer have the benefit of time on their side. Communications today are speed of light. So in many ways PR pros have a seat at the virtual table.
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