In the recent Euroblog 2007 survey, the following question/response combination was included:
Question 12: What do you believe is the most important challenge for public relations and communication management within the next three years?
Please pick the most important item in your opinion.
- Dealing with new communication channels and technologies.
- Establishing new methods for evaluation and controlling communications.
- Linking communication to corporate/organisational strategies.
- Establishing ethical behaviour and conducts in PR practice.
- Finding new ways to communicate in an intercultural context.
It’s the perfect example of what I was talking about here regarding the weakness of questionnaires and surveys. Giving me a choice between five irrelevant choices. Do you want to know what I think, or do you want to have some nice numbers at the end of the survey?
Personally I think none of those are the key challenges of communications people in the next three years. And I think the belief that we’re being enlightened at considering those issues shows just how far we’ve yet to go.
Points one and two are largely mechanics for most comms professionals. And the assumption that we can "control communications" is a massively dangerous and damaging one.
Point three might have been a new idea 10 or 15 years ago, but today it’s just common sense and not-even-close-to-best practice.
Points four and five are increasingly important to my mind – and point four is too often dismissed in PR circles – we’re not doing any harm or exactly lying. I’ve got lots to say on that, but it’s the topic of another long blogpost another day.
I think the most important challenge is greater than all of those. It’s taking communications at it’s core – creating understanding between audiences – and getting serious about it – including what other fields are learning about how people think and create patterns. It’s treating people as intelligent, trustworthy adults who can think for themselves and reach their own conclusions if they’re given the full picture. It’s becoming champions and challengers of how to communicate in different ways depending on the circumstances. It’s abandoning the intellectually safe high ground of business jargon and abstract concepts for straight, honest and frank discussion and illuminating stories.