Research reveals two in 10 Execs don’t know what PR stands for

Does your Executive team know what PR stands for? Press Relations? Protecting Reputation?

Today I have a guest post for you by Richard Benson, Founder of, a platform used by PR teams to create activity reports for busy Execs.

Prior to setting up Releasd, Richard spent five years working both agency-side and in-house. I’ll hand you over…

Research reveals two in 10 Execs don’t know what PR stands for

We’ve worked with many in-house Comms teams over the years, and all share a powerful desire to show their senior stakeholders just how valuable PR can be.

Traditionally, the approach has been to show them more: more screenshots, more scans, more metrics and more charts.

As an ex-PR myself, I have always believed that this only serves to overwhelm super-busy Executives, who often struggle to grasp even the most basic concepts of PR.

When I left agency life to set up Releasd, a tool that enables Comms teams to showcase their work in a much more concise and compelling way, this was still very much a hypothesis. But the intervening years have shown time and again that, when results are shared in the right way, Executives can easily understand and value PR.

But how is the industry doing overall? This year, we decided to find out. We surveyed 300 Executives working outside of the Marketing function, in businesses with over a thousand employees. And here’s what we found:

20% did not know what PR stood for

When we asked CXOs, Directors and Senior Managers what the letters ‘PR’ stood for, two in ten either didn’t know, or hazarded some commendable but misguided guesses.

These included Press Relations, Publicity Remit, Protecting Reputation and Press Release; the latter brought to mind a conversation I had with a Comms Director a while ago who wearily relayed the time when her CEO asked her to ‘Send out a PR about the new office’.

37% did not have a good understanding of what their own PR team actually did

When we first saw this result, two thoughts crossed our minds: firstly, ‘Wow’, and secondly ‘How can an Exec value something that they don’t understand?’

Which leads us onto our next finding…

Four in ten also did not think PR delivered good value to the business

This shows that PR has not done a good job of PRing itself. We’re so good at promoting and protecting our clients and brands, but evidently leave a lot to be desired when it comes to doing the same for ourselves.

The net result is that the industry is constantly missing out. Missing out on opportunities to collaborate. Missing out on respect. And ultimately missing out on budgets and a seat at the highest tables. It doesn’t get more important than this.

However, it’s not all bad news.

80% of those who did understand PR, also thought it delivered good value

There were some truly encouraging results when we zoomed in and interrogated the Execs who had a good understanding of what their PR team did. A vast majority (eight in ten) also thought Communications delivered good value to the business.

So, for the first time, we’ve established a strong link between simply understanding PR and valuing it.

A new approach

It’s my belief that we as an industry need to take a phased approach to proving our worth to senior Executives.

Phase one should be focused on education. This is the part where we go on the PR offensive, with ourselvesas the clients. We must play to our strengths and communicate the basics of what we do in a clear, simple and effective way.

Only when this has been tackled should we move on two Phase two: measurement.

Both are critical to success, but in my opinion the industry has spent too much time chasing the latter, and nowhere near enough time on the former.

Learn more

The full research breaks down results by division, seniority, company size and more. It also includes our own five top tips for Comms teams looking to better educate and engage their own Executives.

How do Senior Execs in Large Companies Perceive PR? from Releasd on Vimeo.

You can download the report for free, here:

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

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Founder of All Things IC communication consultancy. Chartered PR Practitioner and CIPR Fellow.

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