If you’ve ever been curious about how the Canadian PR practice arena compares to that of the US, the results of the 2014 GAP study has the answer and you might be surprised. Canada’s senior practitioners are firmly entrenched in the dominant coalition and most are giving leadership to corporate strategic planning. The strategic value of PR is also a given here but there are also a few pinch points that suggest where improvements might be made.
Canada’s public relations community was delivered a somewhat glowing GAP VIII (Canada) baseline report late last month and is taking the news in true Canadian style, by being bashful. You won’t find anyone grand standing here, even though the results warrant a celebration of the progress that public relations professionals are making.
For one thing, Canada’s senior PR professionals have enviable positions in the dominant coalition. A remarkable 80 percent have decision-making power and control over the organizational communications function. Another 70 percent actively participate in corporate strategic planning, compared to just 38 percent in the US.
There’s also the fact that PR pros in Canada are most-likely to have a direct report relationship to the president/CEO (36 percent) and less likely than their American counterparts to report to the marketing department (10 percent in Canada vs. 26 percent for USA).
Researchers at USC Annenberg, who have run the GAP study in the US biennially since 2002, are emphasizing the value of direct access to the C-suite in their GAP VIII results report, noting that PR managers are more likely to be “taken seriously” and to “have a role in organizational strategic planning” when they report to the president/CEO, by direct or dotted line.
As for the perceived value of PR in Canada, a solid majority (75 percent) report that management teams place a high strategic value on the function, however, just half (52 percent) say that the link between public relations action and organizational financial success is accepted.
Since elsewhere in the GAP VIII (Canada) study it becomes clear that a significant number of PR professionals (17 percent) are not evaluating their organizations’ communications activities, it isn’t surprising to me that there are some question marks about the bottom-line value of PR.
In her recent presentation of these results, the lead author of the Canadian study arm points out that PR measurement tends to be quantitative in nature. “We can count things,” says Dr. Amy Thurlow, Associate Professor at Mount Saint Vincent University, “but what does that tell you about where you’re going strategically?”
As a senior practitioner myself I understand the time- and financial-restraints on practice and how these limit program measurement opportunities but I have found it possible to measure a number of major communications campaigns in meaningful ways (my recent PR Conversations post mentions several useful measurement guides).
More widespread and improved program evaluation is something that I believe we can drive as a professional group, if we put our minds and resources toward it.
Let’s also consider that the profession continues to be dominated by women (72 percent female to 29 percent male) and that women in PR earn 25 percent less on average than men ($95,500 vs. $127,000), according to the study. That the gender wage gap in Ontario is 31 percent offers some small comfort here but I suggest we not dwell on it, since knowing these facts will help the PR community and marketplace to correct itself. Besides, I’d rather be celebrating the fact that Canada’s senior communications professionals are drawing management level pay, which speaks to the strategic value of PR to employers.
For further details about generally accepted practices in public relations in Canada, including PR budgets, resource allocation, agency relationships, use of social media, reporting relationships and areas of responsibility, check out the GAP VIII (Canada) report. There’s lots to like!
Natalie Bovair, APR, is the principal consultant at Savoir Faire Public Relations.