A recent survey by the Counsil of Public Relations Firms shows that public relations is poised for a more prominent role in the overall marketing mix. However, the survey of senior marketings found that opinions are divided on the current function of the public relations discipline.

Is the primary role of public relations a strategic one or is it tactical? Can public relations help build demand and achieve ROI or can it simply build awareness? Survey respondents answered a resounding "Yes" to all of the above.

When marketers were asked in what roles they considered public relations most effective, the highest marks went to raising awareness (83%), followed by providing credibility (67%), reaching influencers (63%) and educating consumers (61%); 22%, thought PR could help drive sales and more than one in four said PR was effective prompting trial. Asked about ways PR contributes toward marketing programs, 67% cited media contacts; 48% cited creative ideas; 45% said strategic thinking and “arms and legs”; 29% cited industry/competitor insight.

When asked about the areas in which public relations is most valuable, marketers cited supporting product marketing (76%) and product launches (72%) as the two top areas, followed by supporting the corporate brand (65%) and crisis management (59%).

The e-mail survey was distributed to selected Advertising Age subscribers. Of the more than 130 respondents, 41% described their title as VP of marketing, 21% as chief marketing officers and 17% as president and/or CEOs.

Based on comments from survey participants, the future looks bright for public relations. Answering the question “How do you see the role of public relations changing over the next five to 10 years,” here is a sampling of responses

  • “PR will assume responsibility for all Internet-based communications. Big media will become less critical as the target for PR initiatives as micro media (e.g. blogs) spread.”
  • “Public Relations will become an even more important element in the marketing mix because advertising will become less and less effective at reaching target audiences.”
  • “As many forms of paid advertising become easier for consumers to avoid, public relations/publicity and product placements will become much more important as part of any integrated marketing communications program.”