Perceptions of PR in Canada – 2020 Survey Results
Perceptions of PR in Canada – 2020 Survey Results
Kim Blanchette, APR, Chart.PR, FCPRS
Colleen Killingsworth, APR, MCM, FCPRS
In 2017, the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) kicked-off a national conversation on the future of public relations in Canada. Consulting with hundreds of Public Relations (PR) professionals from across the country, the Future of CPRS Committee developed a Strategic Framework focussed on delivering member value through a focus on four key priorities: community, collaboration, conscience and careers.
As part of those priorities, CPRS made a commitment to ensure that “CPRS members are seen as ethical professionals who adhere to and uphold a code of professional standards.”
But how will we know we’ve succeeded? As good PR professionals who follow the R-A-C-E formula, The National Task Force for Ethical Public Relations set out to understand how our perceptions of ethical PR stand up to those held by Canadians.
In a study conducted by Leger, we set out to benchmark were we stand both with each other and with Canadians, so we can measure our success in advocating for and promoting ethical public relations.
We encourage you to read the study,
but in the meantime, here are our top five insights:
The study reported strong agreement on the importance of the various aspects of the work of public relations and communications professionals, especially regarding the need to manage the speed and volume of information (98 per cent of public relations and communications professionals vs. 87 per cent of Canadians) and addressing fake news and false information (96 per cent of public relations and communications professionals vs. 83 per cent Canadians).
When it comes to the massive amounts of information we process, both Canadians (64 per cent) and public relations and communications professionals (77 per cent) reported feeling overwhelmed. While there is agreement that social media provides an opportunity for voices to be heard, there is a sentiment that most organizations put more effort into promotion, rather than listening to their customers and clients.
There is strong alignment (85 per cent or more agreement from both communications and public relations professionals and the general public) around the CPRS’s role in setting, promoting and regulating standards within the profession. Eight-in-ten (87 per cent of communications and public relations professionals and 83 per cent of Canadians) agree that CPRS has a role to play in enhancing the code of professional standards with appropriate policies, education and training.
This is consistent with feedback we receive from the CPRS members each year. In fact, eight-in-ten members who participated in the 2019 National Member Survey (n=238) reported that the code of professional standards, professional development and public advocacy were the top three most relevant benefits of CPRS membership.
While there is strong alignment in our current study on questions around the importance of having a code of ethics, there is a divergence of opinion when it comes to trust, credibility, and other aspects of living the code of ethics. Nearly all communicators (94 per cent) believe those in their profession act ethically; however, Canadians ranks communications and public relations professionals (52 per cent) as the sixth most ethical source of information behind friends and /or family (91 per cent), subject matter experts (81 per cent), employees of organizations (72 per cent), journalists (61 per cent), and advocates (59 per cent).
So if there is agreement on the role public relations and communications professionals play and alignment on ethics and professional development, why do we see this gap in credibility and trust? There are a number of factors that may be at play: lack of awareness of our pursuit of ethical PR and the term ‘PR’ itself which tends to have more negative connotations as the terms ‘PR fail’ and “PR disaster’ become fodder for social media.
Both Canadians and communicators see the value of the APR® Accreditation. The general public is more likely to trust the organizations that hire professional with an APR®. However, 67 per cent of Canadians believe organizations should only hire communications and public relations professionals who have an APR®, compared to 33 per cent of communications and public relations professionals. Understanding the value that Canadians place on the APR®and professional standards, there is an opportunity for CPRS to work to close the gap in member and non-member perception the APR®is not relevant to their career, to increase job earnings or to skills advancement.
It’s clear that while Canadians understand, and to a large degree appreciate the role of communications, there is more work to be done to increase trust and credibility. The CPRS will continue to work on strategic initiatives that promote ethical public relations, provide resources and training for PR professionals and calls out unethical behaviour.